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How to Identify Credible Sources on Social Media

Identifying credible sources on social media can make all the difference when writing reports, articles, or news stories. It’s even important when sharing information on your own social media accounts.

There is an abundance of information shared across all different types of platforms in today’s society. The most prevalent is through social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and plenty others are the modern equivalent of a newspaper.  The benefits of using social media are endless, anyone has the power to put information out there which may seem like a great feature but with that comes a concern for credibility.

Identifying valid information from incorrect information becomes extremely difficult in the process. “Your credibility hinges on the accuracy of the information you use,” according to Forbes.

Using information that others know is not accurate hurts your personal credibility and can make it difficult for other to believe what you say or share in the future. All it takes is one time for you to share something inaccurate for people to then question your own credibility. Fortunately, there are ways in which you can protect yourself and integrity if you take into account some easy-to-follow steps.

Maintain Your Credibility

When it comes to online sources, you should first ask yourself if you recognize the name of the site you are referring to for information. If a name or source is familiar to you, chances are, you are more likely to believe what is said on the site or in the article.  

If you have never heard of the source, it is suggested you do some more research to learn more about the site. Remember that even though name recognition is helpful do not strictly depend on that to determine reliability. Just because you are familiar with the source does not always mean it is completely accurate. Also, know that there is such a concept of confirmation bias. This type of bias is believing what is familiar to you. 

Do your own research by googling the platform, publication, or name. Sometimes it does fall on you to take it upon yourself in determining what is accurate or not. Next, ask yourself how you feel when you read a statement. If your gut tells you something if off, intuition almost always never fails. If you are reading an argument, consider if the article feels balanced, includes diverse perspectives or if it tends to lead towards one side only.  

Ask yourself if the content seems outdated or if writers are making statements without acknowledgements. You should also be aware of writers who use the words like “all,” “everything,” “none,” or “only.” Phrases that start with “research shows” followed by a reference are much more credible.

Would you consider sharing or citing your findings with your boss or in a paper for school? When a job or your grade in a class depends on information, you want to ensure you are speaking nothing but the whole truth from your findings. Otherwise, this could have severe consequences that make it near to or impossible to recover. Keep in mind who you are sharing your research with as you go through online sources. Look to see if the source you are using appears elsewhere or is mentioned by other reputable people.  

“Search to determine whether the information you want to use has been used by someone else.” For example, anything that was taken from an academic journal, professor, or highly regarded expert is exactly what you want to model.  You have the option to cross-check as well to see if any information has been accredited as official.  

Although, cross-checking just because something is considered accurate by one person does not always mean that the information is true. Use your judgment. The more you evaluate the information the more you will activate your judgment muscles. This will help you better distinguish whether something is true or false.

You can lastly, ask yourself, how close is the assertion to the primary source? In translation, however much closer you are the source of information, the more you might consider it reliable. “For example, the text of the law is better than reading a social media post a citizen wrote that talks about the law.” 

When you are closer to the source, it is bound to be more factually correct. As you move further away from the source, there leaves more room for opinions and interpretations. Something that happened to another person, or secondary source, can somewhat hinder accuracy in comparison to events that happen directly to the author or speaker. Just be aware of how far content strays from the primary source. 

As mentioned before, there is an abundance of information out in the world. It is, however, up to you to determine what is true to share if you want to be seen as credible and respected by peers, colleagues, friends, family, and anyone else for that matter. Identifying credible sources on social media can make all the difference when writing reports, articles, or news stories. It’s even important when sharing information on your own social media accounts.

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