For weeks now, the news has been dominated by one story – the worldwide impact of the coronavirus. Many things have happened that no one could have foreseen, from the stock market crash to the near-halt in airline travel to the eerie images of entire cities in virtual lockdown. At times like these, rumors seem to spread as fast (if not faster) than real news. So, how can you tell truth from fiction? Here at AgingOptions, we have some suggestions for you. It’s all part of our commitment to help you cope in uncertain times.
Get News from Reliable Sources to Separate Coronavirus Fact from Fiction
Our source for this story is this recent NextAvenue article by senior editor Julie Pfitzinger, called “Coronavirus in the News: Separating Fact From Fiction.” Since we’re as consumed by the news these days as you are, we felt her approach was a good one. “Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., the 24/7 news cycle has transformed into an even more rapidly changing landscape of information, and in some cases, misinformation,” Pfitzinger writes. Now more than ever, she adds, it’s important to have a discerning eye.
The NextAvenue report cites a Stanford University professor named Jeff Hancock who has studied the barrage of news stories about the recent outbreak. He said there are telltale signs to determine whether the coronavirus stories you’re seeing are based in truth. “It’s important to check health-related information from established news sources rather than from shared stories in social media,” Hancock told NextAvenue. “Compared to real news, fake news tends to include information that is more surprising, upsetting or geared to trigger anger or anxiety.”
Reliable Sources: Be Skeptical of “News” That Seems Exaggerated, Sensational
He advises readers to evaluate sensational stories with healthy skepticism and double-check the sources of what appears to be exaggerated news. If sources are unknown or anonymous, or if the information seems clearly partisan, it may likely be inaccurate. The same goes for social media stories with an unusually high number of likes, indicating that a story might have originated with a special interest group.
“This week, Buzzfeed published what they called ‘running list’ of hoaxes being promulgated about coronavirus,” said NextAvenue. The editors plan to update the site regularly. Some of the incorrect stories claim to be from reputable entities such as the United Nations and the Pentagon. (We were sent one bogus story last week that purported to be from Stanford University.) Others are downright dangerous. “There’s a YouTube video encouraging people to inhale hot air from a hair dryer to cure coronavirus,” NextAvenue reports, and another advising people to kill the coronavirus by drinking excessive amounts of water to boost stomach acid. Medical experts say both of these “cures” contain bad advice backed by zero reliable evidence.
Another example of widespread disinformation cited in the NextAvenue story: “No, there isn’t any proof that taking ibuprofen can worsen coronavirus symptoms.” We’d heard this one several times, but apparently the fear is groundless.
With Reliable Sources Available, Why Such an Appetite for Misinformation?
At a time when good, trustworthy information is so important, why do hoaxes and other forms of misinformation spread so fast? Sometimes the motive is good, old-fashioned greed. Stanford’s Hancock explains that media business models are based on what he calls “attention economics.” This encourages bad actors to create and post fake news, misinformation and disinformation about the coronavirus in order to get people to tune in and consume their content, so the purveyors can make money from all that attention. “Money is the primary motivation,” he told NextAvenue.
But greed isn’t the only incentive. “There are other factors lurking behind the fake news,” said NextAvenue, including partisanship, in which one “side” or the other tries to lay blame for the crisis on political opponents. “The third main motivation is seeking to disrupt and confuse the public,” Professor Hancock asserts. “This was the Russian election interference motivation for mal-information and remains their objective along with some other hostile state actors.” Many believe these “state actors” have never stopped interfering in American society.
Our Emotional State Can Cause Us to Reject Reliable Sources and Consume Fake News
NextAvenue acknowledges that “our collective emotional state” during this pandemic is making all of us more susceptible to fake news, especially to stories that play to those heightened emotions to manipulate us. There’s something about conspiracy theories that draws us. That’s why, according to Stanford’s Hancock, “it has become especially essential to trust where you are seeking the latest information.”
But at the same time, we need to avoid feeding our fears with too much news. “Just because the news is 24-hours a day on television and social media, that doesn’t mean you have to engage with it consistently,” the article advises. “Stay informed, yes, but make time every day for life away from the screen. Pick up a book. Take a walk. Listen to music. Make room for some quiet so that when the noise of life gets to be too much, you will know just how to step back and not become overwhelmed. Or fooled.” Good advice, we say.
Two Important Retirement-Planning Announcements from AgingOptions
At AgingOptions our chief desire is to help you prepare for the kind of retirement you’ve always dreamed of having. Toward that end, we want to share two important announcements that are designed to facilitate your LifePlanning process even during this period when most of us are required to avoid gathering in groups.
First, Rajiv Nagaich has scheduled several of his popular, free LifePlanning Seminars in the form of webinars that you can watch conveniently at home. Simply visit our Events Page and register for the webinar of your choice.
Our second announcement: in cooperation with our partners at LifePoint Law, we are excited to launch a ground-breaking new service called the LifePoint Law Emergency Legal Kit. Without leaving your home, you can now consult with a LifePoint Law attorney who will work with you to prepare and sign a complete set of vitally important legal documents including both Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney, a Living Will/Advance Directive, a Will or Trust, and much more. Click on the link or call us at AgingOptions and we’ll explain this excellent service to you.
Reliable information has never been more important – and that’s our promise to you at AgingOptions and LifePoint Law. Age on!
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)