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60(ish) Seconds: Navigating the Infodemic, Part I

In the first of a four-part series, CapU Library’s Krystyna Nowak explains how to assess information in an online world.

infodemic

Do you feel stress and hopelessness at even the thought of looking at your news feed? Are you finding it difficult to keep up with changing information about COVID-19? You may be suffering from the “infodemic.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a lot about how difficult it is to assess information, understand the scientific research process, cope with uncertainty, and avoid traps laid to manipulate and deceive you online. It’s easy for anyone to feel uneasy trusting what they read online, especially when it doesn’t match their existing beliefs.

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So how can we assess new information? I think the key question to ask is not “does the source look trustworthy,” but instead “what beliefs and assumptions am I bringing to what I’m reading? How do my background, worldview and relationships shape whether or not I’m willing to accept it as true?”

People are more likely to believe a claim if it supports their worldview, so it’s important to question ourselves first. Then we can try to look at the source itself. This is the sort of open-mindedness and critical self-reflection that we can model to students to help them navigate the online world.