Don't Take My Word for It: 5 Ways to Filter out the Nonsense

In today's day and age, we're fortunate enough to have a world of information at our fingertips; but this endless web can be haphazard and contradict itself, so we need to be wary.

Just the other day, I was on the phone with a friend who was getting conflicting information from two different sources. As we were talking, I pulled up five separate tabs on the subject, some of which covered "This vs. That," and all of which had somewhat differing information. By the end of our conversation, we both realized that she had a lot more researching and discerning to do before she could be sure she had her answer.

"We have to be sure...the information we're taking in is A. accurate, and B. healthy."

No matter what you're reading about—business, relationships, health issues, spirituality, or finances—there are a million opinions on the matter scattered throughout the World Wide Web. And because we live in a constant state of information overload, we have to put on our discerning pants and cross-checking glasses to be sure the information we're taking in is A. accurate, and B. healthy. (Not like, "broccoli healthy;" more like, "this-positively-contributes-to-my-life healthy.")

This isn't to say that everything you're reading requires in-depth analysis and filtering. Sometimes we read for entertainment and don't care if it's straight-from-the-horse's-mouth true; and that's perfectly fine.

Just as readers read for different reasons, writers write for different reasons, too. They have different motivators, different thought processes, perform different research (if any), and draw different conclusions.

It's human nature to want to share with others, and spreading information is no different. The key word is judgment.

Let’s talk filters. No, not coffee filters. I mean the filters you use when taking in information. Everyone's filters are different—each of us having our own set of standards and principles for what is "true" or "good advice." However, there are 5 ways that everyone should safe-check themselves when discerning information.

1. Expertise

Who is the information coming from? Do they have personal experience in the subject?

Thanks to almost 20 years of experience in various fields, including real estate, coaching, design, bakery, business ownership, and just picking myself up after making mistakes, I'm able to speak on quite a bit because I've lived it. But even my personal experience has informational limitations because my experience is just that: mine. No one else's. So who's to say someone else would have the same experience? Just because their experience is different, is their knowledge any less "true" than mine. Who's to say someone else's perspective won't garner different results and conclusions? There are so many what-ifs and who's-to-says attached to personal experience that it requires further filters...

2. Relevance

Is this information relevant to your life? Does this information help better your life in a constructive or fulfilling way?

If you're reading about how, "In Kentucky, 50% of the people who get married for the first time are teenagers," you're probably not growing or learning in a way that helps you reach your potential.

False reporting and sensationalism run rampant in today's media and news. Clickbait is everywhere but has absolutely no relevance in your life other than to distract you from the really important stuff, like your mental health, personal growth, and professional development.

3. Cross References

Can you easily find other sources supporting the facts or details of this source's information?

Generally speaking, the more people supporting the information at hand, the more reliable it is.

4. Gut Check

Without overthinking it, how do you really feel about this information—does it feel right? 

Never underestimate the power and almighty wisdom of your gut. If you read something and you think, "Wow, that's a great idea," or, "That's an awesome way to look at that," don't ignore it. Fact-based, scientifically-supported research or not—some things will just click for you and won't need an explanation or bibliography; you'll just know.

5. Motivation

What is the writer/source's intention with this information—to teach, to scare, to dramatize?

The majority of people who are writing, speaking, or sharing information are doing so because they want to help in some way, but this isn't always the case. Make sure you're aware of those who are putting any information out there with the sole motivation of selling you something that is essentially useless and unsubstantiated.

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