Understand Messenger Motivations to Uncover Facts

The news today about Amazon buying Whole Foods made me think of my surprise when, as a teenager, I discovered that Disney owned much more than just a few theme parks and a movie collection.

While it always seemed like there was such variety—hundreds of TV channels, shows, newspapers, magazines—in reality, these could all be directly connected to just a handful of companies.

Suddenly, the world seemed to shrink. I realized I wasn’t as exposed to different thoughts and ways of life as I might have expected. When everything you are exposed to can be attributed to the desires of ~50 people (mostly white men), how representative of life’s possibilities can it actually be?

This message condensing is at the core of the pushback against “mainstream media”. When the owner of a media outlet can directly benefit by pushing certain messages, how much can you trust what you’re hearing?

It’s essential to consider the motivation of the messenger before you react (whether it’s by getting angry or afraid, or even just sharing a message on social media). This isn’t to say that all mainstream media are simply puppets for their corporate overlords, but it’s difficult to disentangle what is real and what we’re only seeing through a specific and pre-determined lens. No piece of information is void of human contact.

So how can we start to combat the potential bias that is infused through all of the communication channels we absorb? One of the crucial elements is pausing. So often, people will read a headline and immediately comment or share, without reading the article or even knowing if the headline is accurate. This then spreads that news to others, who immediately comment or share, then spreading it on to even more people.

This great article on FactCheck.org goes into some questions to ask yourself before reacting:

  • Consider the source
  • Read beyond the headline
  • Check the author
  • What’s the support?
  • Check the date
  • Is this some kind of joke?
  • Check your biases
  • Consult the experts

The internet has turned us all into more than just consumers. We are also now a vehicle through which information is spread—it is therefore on each of us to be responsible in ensuring that we are sharing messages with awareness of motivation and confidence in accuracy.

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