Rumors. We’ve heard them before. Knowingly or not, we’ve all helped spread a few during our lifetime. Many of them are (relatively) harmless gossip. But when it comes to an issue as serious as COVID-19, we want to be sure of the facts before we spread anything around.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy for misinformation to spread in its various forms. On the other hand, it’s also easy to find reliable information, including professional evaluations of the rumor you just heard. So how can you evaluate the sources for what you’re hearing or reading?
- Let’s start with some basic rules:
- Don’t believe everything you hear (or see). Have a healthy skepticism.
Consider the source. What are the credentials? Do they have a specific bias or agenda? Does it present different sides of the argument, or only one side?
- What is the context and style? Does it seem sensational or thoughtful?
- Look it up using resources that specialize in fact-finding and deliberately try to avoid bias.
- Know your own biases and what you’re more inclined to believe naturally.
We could spend all day talking about how to evaluate information for accuracy, credibility and relevance. But as a shortcut, let’s look at a few resources that do some of the work for you: Snopes, PolitiFact and the public library.
Snopes.com checks the facts for specific rumors that are circulating. It’s a great place to go when you hear rumors about the virus being created in a lab, or USPS closing, or “Trump said….” Type “COVID-19” in the search box and see what you find!
PolitiFact.com uses a “Truth-O-Meter” to gauge the extent to which a statement or “fact” is actually reliable. While the site focuses mainly on elected officials (it’s a great resource as you determine how to vote in the next election!), it also fact-checks current issues. Go the Menu and select “Coronavirus” for a deep-dive.
Botetourt County Libraries (bocolibraries.info) includes a link to reliable information resources on COVID-19, vetted by professional librarians who remain strictly viewpoint-neutral. You can also email, call or message us on social media, and a librarian will personally help you separate fact from fiction.
Now here’s the catch: there’s a lot we (and the experts) still don’t know about COVID-19. Situations involving the unknown are fertile ground for rumors, so we all need to be extra-vigilant. We also need to accept that sometimes, there isn’t any satisfactory answer. Not right away.
The hardest step to evaluating information objectively is recognizing that as humans, we’re anything but objective in our thinking. We all have deeply-held worldviews and biases that get in the way of seriously considering all sides of an argument, or believing even the most credible and reliable evidence that flies in the face of what we feel is right. Do you know what your biases are?
Before you share that Facebook post and before you tell a friend… Stop. Think. And check the facts. It could save a life – maybe yours.
~ Julie Phillips, Library Director