Can We Be Protected From Information Pollution During Sensitive Periods?

While feeling anxious, we may feel the need to constantly check developments. While experts and officials frequently make statements, the need for all of us to comment on the subject is increasing. It is definitely an advantage that everyone can easily share their opinion, especially on social media. It is very easy to reach an opinion on any subject we are curious about. On the other hand, this is exactly what is called information pollution.

The more information we are exposed to, the better, right?

It seems better to diversify the information than to get the information from a single source. Our perspective does not narrow as we are exposed to different ideas. Information from a single source only confirms our own expectations after a while. Today, developments are mostly followed by sources such as television, internet press, blogs and social media. In fact, everyone has their own distribution of tasks among these tools: Some things are watched on television, some are looked at the internet. This distribution can enable the information contained in one source to be controlled from the other source. At the same time, it creates the feeling that “every head has a voice”.

Especially in sensitive periods, many people give more importance to news sharing with increasing anxiety. It is good for us to share what we know during chat or via social media and Whatsapp. It makes us feel safe. Exchanging information may seem like a harmless act on its own.

Why is it important to filter information?

One of the usual precautions that can be taken when there are extraordinary agendas is to be aware of the developments. In this case, missing a piece of news can make us nervous. The possibility of being caught unprepared for that situation makes us more nervous. It is normal that we are waiting for new information with fear and anxiety. In the meantime, we often forget to check the source and accuracy of the information. The fear mechanism can sometimes turn off the critical thinking mechanism. When there is a dog running towards us, our fear mechanism tells us to run. Other details about the dog are of no interest to us at the moment.

Our reflex to constantly follow the news is similar to the state of constantly checking to see if there is a dog running towards us. No one wants to be caught by surprise when there is real danger.

Could we be sharing fear, not news?

Especially in sensitive periods (such as earthquake, coronavirus), we tend to look at the news with fear glasses. If there is information that confirms our concern (which usually happens), we tend to believe the news without question, with the feeling of “what if it is true” instead of checking the accuracy of it, saying “what if”. The information produced during the sensitive period is also more likely to be in a format that scratches our sense more. The language of many news outlets is based on curiosity and interestingness, sensational reporting sells more than real news. We see a flashing red text LAST MINUTE on the screen, and sometimes it can be yesterday’s news. The possibility of staying calm on an issue that we are already sensitive to seems to have become a bit difficult.

In social media channels, where everyone acts like an individual news agency, we can often be exposed to statements, photos or videos that are difficult to confirm. Information that is produced individually and can be shared instantly can also be very valuable, but… Information transmitted from hand to hand (picture, video, etc.) is inevitably subject to change and we may not know which way it went until it reaches us. It usually gets us excited in some way, and we get caught up in that excitement or fear and forget to confirm it.

I assumed the examples I gave above as good-intentioned shares. On the other hand, there is malicious, intentionally distorted information. It is quite possible for all of us to fall into such traps.

Why is it difficult to confirm information?

It’s hard to stay calm in the face of a sensational claim. When we’re excited, news that confirms our own fears (even bad) gives us a sense of certainty. Yes, the dog is coming. If I run, I have a chance, and we can be included in that sharing chain with the feeling. On the one hand, it is impossible to prove that many claims are false. Questioning the content of an incoming and allegedly confidential audio recording creates a feeling of uncertainty. However, anxiety does not like uncertainty. In this case, it is generally more tempting to believe that information “what if it is true”. This is one of the factors that make conspiracy theories attractive.

It is good for us to diversify the sources from which we obtain information as much as possible. It can also be a great mental burden to question every single piece of information that reaches us. Accepting every piece of information that reaches us without question will cause us to be constantly on the alert and will tire us out.

an exercise

Take your doubt with you to avoid information pollution. Try to improve this skill.

Recall that not all the rumors you’ve heard before that worry you are true.

If you doubt the accuracy of a piece of information, at least change the wording you use. Notice how it sounds when you change the phrase:

“They told my brother’s daughter’s teacher’s aunt that dinosaurs were roaming in Taksim”

in its place

“There is a rumor that dinosaurs roamed Taksim”

expression can make you stay calmer 🙂

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