Information Overload - Who and What to Trust?

Advice for publicWe are in a state of information overload - we are surrounded by various sources, telling us a whole lot of stuff! Some of this information may be accurate, some of it might not, and some of it might be a mix of the two. Which leads us to the topic of this blog - and a series I hope to continue: WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THERE IS TOO MUCH INFORMATION? Or...how do you know what and who to trust?

Now more than ever - during COVID19 - there is a LOT of 'news' and 'research' or opinions being spread around. Turn of the radio or the TV - I can almost guarantee that there will be some sort of talk on COVID19. What is the right mask to wear? How do you socially distance? Which herbal treatment fights of the virus? How much water should you drink to stay well? And the list goes on and on...

This is not something new to our society. There is a lot of information - whether accurate or not - surrounding us. But in a time of a pandemic - or something that breads uncertainty or novelty - we are all in need of information. We crave security. We want assurance. We want answers. And when we don't have those, we panic. And hence, information and opinions begin to surge...

Now here comes the challenge for us, as consumers and members of society. How do you know what and who to trust when it comes to information? This is a wide topic - one which I cannot do justice in a few paragraphs or posts. However, for this post alone, let's use the example of COVID19 information/news.

Visual resources to download and shareThere are a few things we should keep in mind when seeking sources of information. For this post, let's start with a broad idea of what you should be paying attention to:

1) WHERE is this information coming from? Who is reporting on it? For example, is it a trusted source? Is it an expert in the field?

2) Keep in mind, as well, that even experts need to have a REASON and EVIDENCE for what they are saying. For example, a physician may state that the spread COVID19 can be prevented by the use of masks (which it CAN!) - but on what grounds are they stating this? Are they reporting statistics or research results?

3) When research results or evidence is being stated - is it accurate? Is it appropriate to the situation? For example, a study that is being reported may say that certain medications can 'cure' COVID19 - but you need to look into details around this claim. How many people were in the study? You can imagine that a study using 10 people may not be generalizable to the entire population and might not be accurate. To add to this, we need to look at who they used in the study. Were the participants all reasonably in the same health status when they got the medication? Did they experience any side effects? We will go deeper into how to understand study results in another post - but for now, just remember that even research needs to be interpreted carefully.

4) Even when research is accurate and is 'evidence-based' - remember that people and situations are different. One study might have found evidence, but usually, it takes more than one trial/study in research to truly prove that something is significant.  

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): UPDATE | Aplastic Anemia ...Does this mean that we can't trust ANYTHING? Of course not. What it DOES mean is that we need to be mindful of the information we consume, and how we use it or apply it in our lives/practices. For the layperson who doesn't do a lot of research, this can be a taxing and mind-boggling experience. Many of us have been accustomed to believing what we hear on the news - because after all, if the news reports it, shouldn't it be accurate? Well, not necessarily. And remember that the media always will try to give you messages it wants you to FOCUS on. So, one study with 10 people may have been somewhat ground-breaking, but in the long run, much ore work needs to be done. But if the media REALLY wants you to focus on this topic, it will go to many ends to do so.

The main message of this post - and the series on unloading information as consumers - is this: be mindful of what/who/where you obtain information. This doesn't mean you must be hyper-critical and cynical. But it does mean that you have to pay attention to information you believe - and process it before following advice/messages.

Stay safe, and stay well!

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