We've all heard the saying, "Don't believe everything you read." This is an ideal that could even be embraced by the majority of people.
Unfortunately, this is not always followed.
From international awareness to social perceptions to everyday speech and spelling, there's good and bad information out there, and it's important to know what's what in order to avoid circulating information which is inaccurate, or even downright incorrect.
In September of 2011, the Israeli embassy in Cairo was attacked by protesters rallied against a recent border skirmish, resulting in the death of three Egyptian soldiers.
Following the departure of former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, relations between the two nations became strained due to an increase in militant activity, particularly along the Sinai Peninsula. Omitted from initial reports was the fact that, on August 18, a group of Egyptian militants crossed the border from the Sinai into Southern Israel, subsequently killing eight Israelis. This of course provoked a response, leading to the deaths the people were protesting.
Despite the facts, the position certain news outlets took was one portraying the protesters as citizens responding to an unprovoked attack on their land and countrymen, when in fact, it was the other way around.
This information was no secret, nor was even hard to find. With stories like this, it is important for all facts to be reported, if only briefly, to give a complete picture and avoid the appearance of a bias or favoritism.
Closer to home, misinterpretations in the media have played their part in a little thing I like to call Y2K_2.0. I'm referring of course to the impending doom that awaits us in 2012. Let us examine what this misunderstood claim is based on.
Nearly 3,000 years ago, the Maya constructed a calendar system based on a mythical creation date. This calendar was structured by periods of 144, 000 days each. After a series of thirteen of these intervals, called b'ak'tuns, a "Great Cycle" would be complete in 2012, by the Gregorian Calendar. A second Cycle would likely have begun at this time if the civilization had not withered away, likely from over-population and resource depletion (sound familiar?).
In the latter half of the 20th, a theory stating that 2012 would mark the beginning of a spiritual awakening was proposed by the New Age community. This in turn was interpreted by different groups in different ways, essentially becoming a pop culture telephone game, and the rest is history. Anyone seeing the prospect of a spiritual awakening as a potential threat, has since twisted it into a sign of various catastrophes, from an asteroid collision, to an environmental cataclysm, to the very End of Days itself.
The only disasters to surface so far are the John Cusack film, 2012, along with any number of amusing, albeit questionable, Discovery Channel specials from which I think we're all able and willing to recover from.
Finally, a lack of care in what we read affects how we read thanks to social media and communication. Popular mediums such as Facebook, Twitter and text messaging are designed to favor brevity and abbreviation over more lengthy messages for the sake of simplicity. There is nothing wrong with this, however it's important to know how and when words and grammar are properly used, lest they bear unfortunate fruit.
Imagine, someone applying for a job with a résumé full emoticons, or a student turning in a book report peppered with LOLs, WTFs and OMGs. What would it say to an editor about a reporter who hands in an article with "COAL MINE COLLAPSE COULD OF BEEN FATAL" as the headline?
It would say that their choice of headlines needs refining, but more importantly, that the author has picked up bad habits found commonly in chat rooms and comment sections.
Being media literate comes in many forms, from basic language, to an ability to seek out missing details in the news, to recognizing sensationalism disguised as journalism.
The news, media and technology have the potential to inform and illuminate us by providing useful, constructive information; to shed light on the darkness of ignorance. But just like anything, they can be used to help or to harm, which is why we need to take our own precautions against avoidable misconceptions. Otherwise, we make ourselves susceptible to influence by those who may want to harness and direct our thought toward achieving their own agendas.
We know not to believe everything we read, hear or see, but actions speak louder than words.
Rather than accepting things blindly, we need to stop and ask ourselves if what the news is reporting, or what we read on the internet is really true.
So why don't we?
Simple answer: It requires effort. The benefit is, that the rewards outweigh a little effort. And it's not as hard as you think…
But don't take my word for it. Find out for yourself.