There is nothing more frustrating then having people fly off the handle at you, especially on social media, without providing any sort of valid or research-based argument from a legitimate source. I often hear people spouting opinions as if they were actual news. It has reminded me of the days that I would go home and be subjected to watching Fox News and the “O’Reilly Factor” with my dearly departed grandmother.
To start, let’s all take a deep breath. I know that most of us are spinning from all of the changes and upheaval in the U.S. right now, so let’s take a moment to dissect what is really occurring in politics and the media.
Firstly, this is not a political post. It’s obvious what my politics are if you have visited any of my social media, but more than anything, I want to take a moment to help people understand what is happening from a seasoned public relations pro’s perspective.
What is fake news and how do you know when it’s fake or real?
The number one thing you need to know as a citizen of the world is that you are always being manipulated by people higher up in the chain than you. It’s sad, but true.
As a longtime public relations executive, I have learned how the media functions and how to read between the lines. I often find myself cringing when I read or see something on tv that is so clearly a well-devised message or talking point that is meant to influence my views.
How do I know when I see it? It has come from years of experiencing how PR strategy works and knowing the media’s role in the machine of public perception.
The first thing that you need to know is that all politicians have strategy teams that advise on public relations and how to respond to each issue.
It is largely the politicians that are pulling the strings and manipulating the media, not the other way around. (Who is pulling the strings of the politicians is a whole other story.) So, in this unbelievably confusing landscape where we’ve seen the official rise of “fake news,” how in the world do we know what to believe any more?
There has been legitimately fake news. Teens in Macedonia actually created a profitable business model and also influenced the U.S. election. But is the mainstream media that we have trusted all these years suddenly “fake”? No, it’s not.
And please always remember that “alternative facts” are not facts.
It might take you a little more time to formulate your own truth, but here is a way to get to the bottom of fake news.
1 – Trust your gut. You know that feeling you get when you can tell someone is lying to you? Trust it. Our intuition is the leading force in guiding us to our own personal truths. Stay tuned into your higher self, however and whatever that means to you. Move proactively from within opposed to reacting to what’s coming at you from outside of you.
2 – Do your own fact checking. Now, I know how to do this because I’ve had to do it for my clients and press contacts for over 20 years. But if PR isn’t your profession, then this might seem daunting. But don’t worry. It just takes a little time, common sense and commitment. In my next post, I will break down my top tips for fact checking.
3 – Check your emotions. It’s so easy to spin out of control emotionally when we feel the impact of decisions made by others that are affecting us at a core level. But remember, we are all in this together. Have lively discussions, debates and banters from people that have different perspectives. Do your best to understand someone else’s views, and listen to what they are saying. Honor it. It is his or her belief. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but it also doesn’t mean you have to berate the person or make him or her believe in your side of the matter. That is just the ego saying, “I need affirmation that I am right so that I can feel good about my beliefs.” It doesn’t matter what other people believe. It matters what you believe. You don’t need external validation. Respectfully share your own opinions without any other agenda than sharing, understanding and education.
4 – Take action. Once you have done the appropriate research to determine what news is real, then do what you need to do. Share your findings on social media. Participate in one of the many ways that people are activating to make positive change in the world—whether that is calling your senator, writing a blog post, or supporting a a non-profit that is in alignment with your beliefs.
This isn’t about proving who is right and who is wrong. This is about reading between the lines of what people want you to think and making your own educated decisions. Learn to do the research, know what it is that you truly believe and find a way to productively express it.