If you remember from Wednesday, I proposed that two important ways to limit yourself from sharing bad information are finding the primary sources and establishing context.
In case those two guidelines aren’t enough for you, I would like to propose another pair.
Adopt the Opposite Perspective
Most of my writing online has been about Christianity and apologetics. If you are a Christian, you might be eager to agree with me if I write an article defending the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, I would hope that before you share my article, you try to view the article as a skeptic. Is my argumentation really solid? I believe it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but I have read some articles that defend that position badly.
This applies to any type of article. If Fox News reports that Barack Obama is the worst president in history or MSNBC reports that he is the best president in history, don’t immediately assume either article is correct.
It is more valuable when you try to put on the worldview of someone who would absolutely disagree with the article you want to share.
It is hard to temporarily try on an opposing worldview, but it is a valuable practice for determining the worth of an article. If you can break down the argument yourself, then it might not be the best representation of your chosen position to pass on.
When in Doubt, Move on
I have seen many articles that I wanted to share. I thought that the author made good points, and I might have particularly liked his or her writing style. However, sometimes I just don’t feel right about the information.
Maybe I cannot find the primary sources, maybe the article seems to be taking some quotes out of context or maybe I just can’t get beyond my presuppositions to evaluate the argument from the other side.
If any of those other case, maybe I just shouldn’t share the article at all.
Think about the consequences of sharing a bad article. Your friend could get the wrong impression of your position and all of a sudden believe that an entire movement is represented by one bad article.
It is much easier to lose credibility than to gain it, so if something simply doesn’t seem quite right, it might be best to move on and not share that article.
I hope you have found this series helpful. I know it seems basic, but I see so many people sharing particularly political pieces that are entirely unfair and not well thought out whatsoever. Just because it supports your position doesn’t make it a good article to share; do your homework.