By: Natalie Eaton
Life is different now than it was two years ago. From 2020 and on, an uptick of important and controversial events has taken over our lives. COVID, BLM movement, the Ukrainian crisis, and more: it feels like we are living in a history book. Social media is now the main source of information for breaking events, and with power are many different perspectives and voices. Knowing what to trust in your feed is important.
On Instagram, students posting donations and news about huge events are super common. Many users also post what are called “infographics,” which usually start with “how to help.” a certain cause. Whatever the political, social justice, or awareness is, reposting needs to be truthful and reliable.
This subject has been bugging me for a while. I am always on Instagram, and have been on it through very serious and controversial times. It’s becoming increasingly difficult as a user to be bombarded with infographics, donations, and politically biased views of issues without knowing what to believe. After looking into media bias in my other article, “The Search for Unbiased News,” I wanted to share how media bias and misinformation is presented on Instagram.
Below are a few tips that have helped me navigate through the world of Instagram.
#1: Don’t be Lazy…Google it!
If you cannot make a judgment, the best option is to use Google and search up the user or the facts reposted. Yes, it is painful sometimes to put in a little work to make sure something is true. But, Google is a vast world, and there’s always someone who has the same questions as you. Check reliable websites, like .org or .gov. If the issue has a category, look up a foundation that specializes on the topic. If you truly care about knowing the facts online, sometimes you need to take extra time to make sure it’s verifiable.
#2. Always Click on The User’s Profile:
One of the simplest ways to identify if something or someone is not a scam is by checking the account the post is made by. Usually, people tend to trust users on Instagram who have a blue checkmark next to their username. (This indicates that they are a celebrity or have been certified by Instagram as a real person.) This cannot always be reliable since users can pay for blue checkmarks. Anyone can ask to be verified. Instead, scroll through the user’s feed a bit and be a stalker. Make your judgment on whether their content is reliable or not. Ask yourself questions. Is this person working in a profession dedicated to this cause? How is this person certified to report things like this? Has this person done the research and been proven right?
#3. Check for Political Bias in Infographics
Everyone has a different viewpoint on certain issues on both sides of the political spectrum. It is hard for many people to break away from their viewpoints and just get the facts. Bright colorful “infographics” usually are reposted to get followers’ attention. This was a huge trend that blew up around the start of the pandemic, where infographics were used to raise awareness. These infographics are almost like slideshows, where you can easily get information about a subject without reading too much.
Be wary of accounts that rely on inflammatory language in order to rile up your emotions while being deceptive. Keeping information literacy in mind when reporting infographics means understanding the views and opinions of your audience and followers. Many infographic accounts are one-minded on issues. Both sides have good intentions in reporting about activism and how to help causes. Infographics can be useful in some ways due to quick information, and just because they are biased, still bring good awareness on important issues. But at the same time, it makes Instagram toxic when one side is flaming the other for their beliefs.
#4: Double-Check Donations
On Instagram stories, users can repost donations or add donation stickers to their stories. During humanitarian crises, like the wildfires in California, donations are all over Instagram stories. Different versions of donations all with the same idea in mind are shown. The question is, which organization should you trust with your money the most?
Instagram has made it easier to find reliable certified organizations for different causes. If you press the donation sticker, you get a whole page that lists nonprofit organizations, and popular donations that have been reposted the most. To show that they are certified, they have a blue checkmark by the usernames.
Do some research. Yes, make sure that Unicef and Save The Children have a donation on their website. Make sure that it is up to date, and is still going on. For example, go to the official Unicef website and click on What We Do. Unicef does a great job explaining their mission and what they hope to accomplish. They all have a Research and Reports feature to click on that has many graphs, publications, and data on important issues. These are all great resources to read when considering donating on Unicef. Save The Children has the same thing all laid out once you open the website. The key is to get informed and know why and what you are donating to.
#5: Fact Check Like Crazy
Getting in a good habit of checking infographics facts or spending some extra time checking the reliability of donations will help you stay clear of misinformation. While it takes more time to fact-check, it is worth it if you want to repost facts. But, using news accounts like FOX, CNN, and MSNBC on Instagram may not be a good idea if you want to repost something. Big news outlets are either left or right-leaning. Using a media chart to see where an outlet falls or using a simple acronym test can help spread good and worthy news on Instagram.
We all want to make the world around us a better place. But there are people who are trying to take advantage of that enthusiasm. Make sure that you do your research before reposting or spending time or money!