The constant conversation in so many spaces. Articles and posts written by citizen journalists. The ability of anyone to share anything by simply using their phone, tablet or computer.
But all of this hurry to publish or perish creates a problem that we often ignore. Like the amplification of sound that comes from hollering in a cave, too often statements made online are given importance far beyond the value of the statement. As sound in a closed environment gains amplification providing additional volume to the comments of the speaker, the publication of opinions in the online space often generates importance to the statements that is unwarranted.
In this unregulated space rhetoric seems to be valued more than substance all too frequently. Large sweeping statements about businesses, organizations, and even individuals are often allowed to stand unchallenged, and as often are just not accurate or complete. Too often the writer is speaking about what they think- not what the know, but the line between fact and opinion is allowed to blur.
I have always had a habit of citing sources for my statements, believing that I needed to provide my readers with a basis for my statements or arguments. As a result, the editor of the blog I wrote for a number of years ago said to me” Your authority will be greater if you stop quoting other people. Most people will never question your information”. I disagreed then and still do now, so I have six rules that I follow as both a reader and a writer.
As a reader;
1. Always look for verification – just because its in black and white and appears on my computer, phone or tablet doesn’t make something a fact.
2. Retain some healthy skepticism – the desire to inquire to the why and what behind the rhetoric
3. Don’t rely on social proof alone – though we rely on the opinions and positions of our friends, adoption by others shouldn’t be the sole criteria by which we pick our position on an issue – at least not before we have taken steps one and two.
As a writer;
1. Be clear on who said what and where you get your information.
2. Be clear about what is opinion, what is speculation, and what is fact.
3. When your idea originates with another, be sure to credit the source – and maybe even why you chose to endorse, repeat or believe that source.
Of course, these are just my opinions, and my guidelines- perhaps you have some to offer?