Aloha e

Fake News - Recognizing and Avoiding It

Facebook, Instagram & Co. are fascinating sources of information. Whether regarding health, politics, or Hawai'i - all news can be found there. Nonetheless, they are also a source of misinformation. How can we deal with that?

As therapists, we have a responsibility. We must be able to respond to our client's concerns and problems. We need to be able to assess their situation - not only regarding their complaints, but also in terms of where they are in life. Technical expertise alone is not enough. We need broad general knowledge, about Hawai'i in particular, about the political situation in the world, the trends in our society, gender issues...

However: how and based on what foundation do we inform ourselves? This is already challenging in everyday life given the many sources of information that vary greatly in quality. Even more so when we are suffering from complaints or illnesses. That is when we often become gullible and tend to succumb to bizarre promises of salvation or absurd conspiracy theories in the hope of quick relief.

Fires on Maui - a Consequence of American "Weather Weapons"?

Social media and its credibility are currently the subject of particular discussion in this regard. For good reason. On the one hand, Facebook & Co. are gaining more and more influence, on the other hand, there are hardly any restrictions on who can publish what - impacting the quality of the information. The devastating fires on the Hawaiian island of Maui last summer are a good example of this. Shortly after the outbreak of the fires, Chinese sources began to flood the internet with information that the USA itself was responsible for the disaster: They had been testing secret "weather weapons"1. However, there is no evidence of this.

Another example is Covid-19. The WHO2 examined reports regarding the pandemic on Facebook & Co. The results: Almost 30 percent of general posts about Covid-19 were fake, up to 51 percent of posts regarding vaccines were false and up to 60 percent of general posts about the pandemic did not correspond with the facts. Moreover, regarding the latest coronavirus variants claims are circulating that the more vaccinated you are, the more likely you are to contract Covid-193. This is also not true.

Misinformation Destroys Trust

What does this mean? Since clicks and likes have become the new currency for fame as well as money being made from them, misinformation is on the rise - whether published deliberately or unawarely. We use these sources because we prefer short, simple and flashy news. What’s more, they cost less. However, the associated misinformation destroys trust in institutions such as federal offices and science. Simultaneously, trustworthy channels such as renowned daily newspapers or official radio and television stations are increasingly losing their reach.

This is not only a problem in principle but for me as a therapist and school principal. I am regularly confronted with statements or assertions that either come from dubious publications or social media. The sources quoted are by people who ignore facts or bend them to fit their worldview. At the same time, the claims are usually presented to me with an opinionated fervor that is deaf to counterarguments. The danger behind this: Populism. In other words, a simplified view of the world that is not based on researched facts but on superficial opinions. I consider that to be dangerous.

Think slowly...

What do we do now? I have put together a small checklist to help you distinguish between correct and incorrect information. Be aware: Nobody, really nobody, is immune to falling for false information.

  1. Consider: Can what you are reading or hearing be true? Alarm bells should ring if something is presented in an overly simplistic way. Complex topics often require complex explanations.
  2. Remain attentive and critical of all information. If you suspect a conspiracy theory behind it, keep your distance.
  3. Be open to counterarguments and listen to them. We all tend to look for information that confirms our own beliefs. This can lead to a distortion of reality.
  4. Think slowly! This is what neuroscience recommends. If we think quickly, we react intuitively, emotionally, and unconsciously. This makes us susceptible to disinformation and half-knowledge. If we think slowly, we think logically and consciously. This enables us to analyze and classify.
  5. Use other sources in addition to social media. Can I find confirmation there for what is on Facebook, Insta & Co.?
  6. Talk to people you know to be objective thinkers.
  7. As a student of AlohaSpirit, you can ask us for an assessment at any time.

I am by no means advocating for blind faith in traditional media or our institutions, they can be wrong or politically influenced. Moreover, I also like to use social media extensively. However, I always try to form my own opinion based on discussions with the people around me, revising my opinions if necessary. A society that can no longer distinguish between truth and lies will sooner or later end in chaos. I want to avoid that at all costs. That's why I err on the side of facts, peace, and ALOHA whenever possible. And base my own opinion on them.

Aloha + warmly


Noelle Delaquis

PS: You may have noticed that we have included footnotes in some places throughout this Newsletter. Reason: In a newsletter on the subject of information and misinformation, we want to be transparent regarding where and how we do our research. Thereby, you can check our statements and form your own opinion.




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