As the calendar turns to a new year, resolutions often revolve around adopting healthier lifestyles, from fitness routines to dietary choices. However, there’s one aspect of our lives that often goes overlooked in our quest for self-improvement: our media and news consumption habits.
Staying well-informed in today’s digital age is no easy feat. The sheer volume of information available to us is staggering, but the quality is not always guaranteed. Media outlets face accusations of bias, false stories spread like wildfire, and the influence of artificial intelligence introduces another layer of complexity to our information landscape.
Social media, a primary source of news for many, employs algorithms and rankings that create filter bubbles. These bubbles expose users to a personalized selection of information, potentially exacerbating polarisation by reinforcing existing beliefs. However, recent research challenges the notion that audiences are irreversibly polarised and suggests that algorithms might contribute to diversifying information sources.
While the digital landscape poses challenges, there are practical steps one can take to cultivate a more varied and high-quality media diet.
1. Cultivate Curiosity about Diverse Viewpoints
Social media algorithms thrive on keeping users engaged by providing content that aligns with their existing beliefs. This can inadvertently lead to the consumption of inaccurate information that fits a preferred narrative. To counteract this, actively seek out diverse sources and viewpoints. Read articles from news outlets with different political alignments, and explore topics outside your usual interests. By doing so, you may “trick” algorithms into presenting you with a broader range of perspectives.
2. Watch Out for Attention-Seeking Behaviour
In an era marked by amplified opinions and attention-seeking tactics, it’s crucial to be aware of personal biases and approach social and political issues with objectivity. Differentiating between authentic perspectives and those seeking attention is key. A 2022 study highlighted that individuals often exaggerate their opinions to garner a larger following. Be discerning about who is genuinely sharing insights and who is merely “shouting” to attract attention. Adopt the role of a scout, gathering information, rather than a soldier engaging in ideological battles.
3. Identify and Share Balanced Sources
Combatting polarisation requires active participation. Recognize bias in the news and make an effort to counteract it by sharing balanced and reliable sources. Social media platforms can play a role in reducing polarisation by flooding users’ feeds with diverse viewpoints. While individuals may not produce balanced news, they can contribute by consciously sharing content from reputable sources. Encourage critical thinking by asking questions about the news you encounter and rating its credibility. Engaging in this way can make users more aware and critical of the information they consume.
4. Beware of Emotional Manipulation
Media publishers and social media platforms often employ strategies to elicit strong emotional responses from users, as emotionally charged content is more likely to go viral. Before reacting to emotionally charged content, pause and reflect. Ask yourself whether the presentation is designed to manipulate emotions and whether your emotional response is constructive. Strong emotions can either drive positive action for a cause or cloud judgment, leading to the acceptance of questionable information. Check the credibility of sources by examining their track record for accuracy and avoiding sensationalist headlines.
In addition to these tips, consider adding fact-checking accounts and following respected journalists to your media diet. By subscribing to their newsletters or following them on social media, you can enhance your exposure to reliable information.
In conclusion, as you embark on the journey of the new year, don’t overlook the importance of nurturing a healthy media diet. By actively seeking diverse perspectives, being vigilant against attention-seeking behaviour, sharing balanced sources, and avoiding emotional manipulation, you can fortify your mind against the challenges of the information age. Remember, a well-balanced media diet is just as vital for your intellectual well-being as a nutritious meal is for your physical health.