Family · Reflection · Social Topics

Tuesday Thoughts – FAKE NEWS, Family Circle, and Elvis

Yesterday, while sipping coffee and picking up around the house I finally scanned the cover of my recently delivered Family Circle magazine.

Note: This post is the result. I want to stress that I am writing this as a part of self-reflection and how this article impacted me personally. I am expressing my personal views. Please do not share this as a fact based article. The links I’m sharing are part of the research and certainly not the be all and end all sources for the topics that I’m discussing.. (Sad that I feel I even have to include this in my post.)

Slightly Off Topic Musing Before I Dig In on the Headline

I have to ask. Am I the ONLY person who gets magazine’s anymore? I battle with this in my head. There is still a section in most grocery stores and they still hang out near the registers when we check out so I have to believe there are some like me who still enjoy them. How many of us actually have subscriptions and find them in our mailboxes? I know just like newspapers, they are smaller and chock full of advertisements. Why do I still get magazines and pick up the newspaper from time to time? Well…I love them. I love finding meal and recipe ideas. I enjoy the decorating and craft ideas. I enjoy some of the health and fitness articles. And I love the back parts where readers submit photos and articles. I love the feel of them in my hands. I love that method of exploration. I’m not having to think of a search term and I am giving myself a chance to disconnect from the web and social media and learn and discover the “old school way.” I am given options of items to read and not feeling them pushed at me one by one like the algorithms that drive topics to my in box or are “sponsored” and “suggested” by the bots. I still like to get some of my information the old school way. How about you?

Now I know all magazines also have digital versions, but a typical web search isn’t going to produce those results unless you subscribe to the site. And frankly that is too much clutter in an already advertisement and spam-filled world of emails. And really, is this blog not a magazine in a sense? I’m asking you as my reader to subscribe or draw you here from my posts on social media. I don’t have bots and algorithms. I’m not here calling a pot black when I am simply a kettle that is black too. I’m a blogger and I don’t know that I aspire to an audience as vast as the the circulation of Family Circle. I don’t desire to have to sell ad spots and bog down this site with my margins full of ads that I hope you as the reader click on and buy something. Not today. Not tomorrow. Maybe next year. Who knows? That is a blog post and decision for future me.

Thank you for clicking the link in the email or social media post that brought you here. You, my readers, make me so very happy when I know you have stopped by for a visit or a view.

Exit Stage Musing And On To the Point

Right now, I’m thinking more about this Fake News and that article I discovered, not while searching the web or sitting in social media. It didn’t pop up in any of my feeds based on algorithms. It came to me in my actual mail box. I appreciate the work of the hands that get the shiny, colorful pages to my home or local grocery store. I hope they never go away. And this week, I was interested in more than the recipes and healthy tips. Family Circle published an article that I tell you is very timely. The cover highlight, “FAKE NEWS & what to tell your kids” completely grabbed me. What a sad topic to appear on the cover atop those gloriously beautiful cookies. This reader didn’t even go to the recipes. Yep. I bypassed those and went straight to Fake News.

Fake news has always existed. We used to call is rumors and crap. It has always been in the media. Every week for decades if we stood in a grocery store, the check out stands were lined with the “rags” like The National Enquirer. My mother always picked them up to read them for the pure fun and humor. Well, maybe she was hopeful that Elvis was still alive and had been abducted by aliens. We have always had to discern fact from fiction. So why now has this become a problem so out of control that I was planning to read this article before the recipes? Why do I need to know what to tell my kids?

I have to admit that reading this article struck a chord with me. I am not sure if I took it personally or if it had me more worried about the state of our education system and parenting? Should I take this as a personal criticism as a parent?

Good grief! I mean, have we really come this far that articles have to be written to hopefully educate us on how to deal with this problem? Assuming positive intent, I realize that we have tons of information we have to synthesize and rationalize in a small amount of time. It isn’t like the weekly Enquirer of old.

What stood out were results from a study:

  • 82% of middle school students had difficulty differentiating between news and advertising
  • 75% of the time adults believe Fake news headlines

Shocking! Where did our critical thinking go? Did you ever see the Disney movie WALL-E? In my mind, the creators were predicting the trajectory of humans and our careless consumerism and decline in a key skill called critical thinking. In the movie, the setting was 100 years in the future and humans were conditioned to think and behave based on Big Data, algorithms, and bots. This movie came out in 2008, before the terms Big Data, algorithms, and bots became so common place. When I walked out of the theater ten years ago, I actually filed away a personal fear of where we were heading. I thought technology can and probably would change us and make us lazy. We would totally buy Hover chairs to get around and use screens for communication with other humans. They were hovering right next to each other but never left the chair or touched another soul. How many of us text a family member from another room in the house or heck across the room? It reminded me of how lazy we already were and that the folks behind technology could sway our purchases, voting, and opinions. The scene where the new color trend was announced and they could press a button to purchase and change shirts was shocking. Funny maybe. Let’s be real, Color of the Year is decided for us based on various factors and we buy into it. How do you think home decorating and clothing color trends happen? There is a science behind it and a whole team of smart marketing to influence us into buying to the trend. I wonder how many people who saw the movie saw the creators poking fun at us?

Do we buy into this or stop the madness? Can we stop the madness? Is it madness?

All great questions! Fake News? Where did that even start? Well I thought I would point you to Wikipedia and what it says, Wikipedia’s take on Fake News and this article from Family Circle on Fake News because they both drove home to me that a mere 10 years after WALL-E, we aren’t really 100 years away from needing to find another home away from earth nor are we immune to suggestive marketing and fake news. Are we not thinking for ourselves more each and every day? And when I think about it, it seems critical thinking as a skill is needed more than ever before. I know the people with the skill are behind the big date, algorithms, and bots. I guarantee that. So how can I ensure, that I’m honing my critical thinking and retraining myself and teaching my kids? How do I put into practice looking at news and discerning fact from opionion and fact from fiction? How do I talk to my kids more about what they have seen on social media, television, and hearing from their peer groups? And furthermore, how do I turn that conversation on to helping them be expert critical thinkers? I personally will not rely on formal education to do it all. I cannot expect that. It isn’t fair. I don’t send an employee of mine to a class and expect them to come back an expert? Why would I have the same expectation of my children and their teachers? Family Circle and Wikipedia both offer tips on how to analyze the information presented to determine fact, opinion, or fiction.

I encourage you to read this article on Fake News, and not just to know what to say to the kids. I needed it. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised to find it in Family Circle. (Yay for the magazine in my mailbox!) Future generations can become critical thinking masters if given the chance. Fake News discernment starts with the individual. As we allow our kids access to a vast world of fact and fiction in the digital age we need to talk more about what is being digested. Some may suggest keeping kids off digital longer. I don’t know if that is the right way either. My kids have the ability to surpass me in so many ways if I educate, communicate, and foster critical thinking. They can be a powerful force. The article reminded me that my generation can really help be mentors and guides to the future. So I want to step away from the screens and talk and share an interact more. It will be these moments of connecting where I can find teachable moments. I can walk away with a stronger ability to identify fake news and so will my family. I can ensure that if what I’m seeing is really an opinion, that I won’t choose to adopt the same opinion because I agree and think it is fact. Talking with my kids about it will help me and in turn hopefully help them be stronger.

I may have thought I was doing this already, but the article made me pause and think on it. And I thought a lot. I even talked to my 13-year old about it. I recognize that I can be better. I was disappointed in myself. Because I realized, I am just so annoyed with the amount of fake news that I give less attention to a lot of it and in turn, talk less about news in general. And it got me to this rant. And honestly, I will take my in-hand magazine any day of the week.

I have to ask: What do you do with Fake News? Are you concerned about friends, family, and your kids not knowing the difference? Were you surprised by the statistics from the study that was shared in the article? Do you ignore Fake News? Do you agree with the article on why and how to talk to our kids?

Now…I am off to finish my coffee and look at the recipes and crafts in Family Circle.