Staying informed is imperative for every U.S. citizen. However, a lot of the information circulating the internet is not as factual as you may think. How can you tell what is misinformation and disinformation and are you able to avoid it?
This year’s election has stressed the importance of voting. However, as the election brings voters a renowned sense of patriotism, it has also brought a slew of misinformation and disinformation to the forefront on media platforms.
First, it is important to define the difference between misinformation and disinformation. Disinformation is false information that is meant to cause harm or change a person’s opinion or perspective. An example of this was the information spread by Russian operatives to disrupt the 2016 election. Misinformation is incorrect information unintentionally spread by someone that does not know that what they are spreading is false. This could be a friend sharing a meme or a picture featuring false information on social media, unaware that the information is false.
In recent weeks several different groups have become the targets of misinformation. Most recently, Spanish-speaking voters have become the victims of disinformation campaigns, because they are expected to be the largest group of voters of color. However, as in 2016, African American voters are one of the biggest targets of disinformation spread by the Internet Research Agency, an organization of Russian trolls known for spreading pro-Kremlin disinformation. However, Russia is not the only country guilty of spreading disinformation to disrupt elections. In 2016, Donald Trump’s campaign launched an effort that they called “deterrence” that targeted Black voters in parts of Florida in order to suppress their votes.
Misinformation and disinformation come in many different forms, and the most effective kinds typically try to cause a sort of emotional response. One of the most ubiquitous and dangerous forms of disinformation being spread throughout the internet are memes. Memes are easy to create and can spread misinformation in very few words, and they are also very easy to share through social media. With modern technology video editing software has become easy for individuals to use and to manipulate media, and make it nearly identical to the original footage.
The most common misinformation that is circulating the internet is typically about voting. There is a lot of false information about how to vote, which is one of the oldest forms of voter suppression. It is spreading false information about the time and place to vote or about the process of voting. There is also false information spreading about voting integrity such as claims by Trump that vote-by-mail will lead to voter fraud. Yet it has been proven to be very rare in the U.S.
But, far-right news outlets like Breitbart and The Washington Examiner are still publishing articles amplifying these false claims. False information spreading about the safety at polling places has been circulating for years, and the fear of poll safety has been magnified by Trump’s calls for his supporters to watch the polls. There is also false information about the election results, particularly, about whether the polls can be trusted after they incorrectly projected the outcome of the 2016 election.
As the election will soon be over, false information about the election will drift to the back of our minds until four years from now. But that does not mean that misinformation and disinformation is something that citizens and voters will no longer have to worry about between now and then. With small local-news outlets shutting down, more and more of them are being bought by political groups and PR firms in order to spread pro-Republican misinformation. These are not outright lies, but rather misleading information aimed to smear political rivals.
It is important that every article you read, that does not come from a source you know you can trust, is taken with a grain of salt. You must determine if the content is overly sensationalized or if the claims are overtly outlandish. In particular, pay attention to the information that provokes an intense emotional response. If it does, there is a good chance that it is misinformation or disinformation, and you may need to do some research to determine if the information is valid.
If you come across any information that you are unsure about, it is important that you verify it through a misinformation directory like the one located on Factcheck.org, Snopes, or Politifact. You should also check this list of fake news sites. If you come across an article from a site you have never heard of, look for their “about us” page, and research what kind of publication they are. You should be able to see if they are legitimate by reading their mission statement. You should verify the author by doing a Google search on their byline.
Because so much disinformation is spread with the intention of affecting us emotionally, it is important to not let your emotions dictate what information you deem to be true. If you come across any misinformation or disinformation it is important that you do not spread it around, and that you discourage others from spreading it as well. As the saying goes scientia potentia est—meaning “knowledge is power”—and indeed, information is very powerful. But the spreading of false information may prove to be detrimental to our democracy.
5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Actually Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions in 2022
With 2021 finally over, and many making plans for a better year, these are some easy ways to stick to your New Year’s Resolutions.
The year 2021 is finally over, and we have a new year to look forward to!
If you’re anything like the majority of the world’s population, you’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past—and broken them within a month.
But you keep making them, because you enjoy the optimism: beginning a new year on the right foot, promising to be a better, more fit and a more skilled version of yourself.
Here are ways you can stick to your New Year’s Resolutions in 2022
Tell people about your resolution
Usually, we’re told that peer pressure is a bad thing. But in the case of a New Years’ Resolution, it might be just what you need. Positive reinforcement (encouragement and support) from your friends and family can push you to learn the guitar, lose the beer belly, or whatever it is you want to do in this new year.
Disappointment (or the fear of it) can also push you to work harder toward your goal. If the cost of failing on your resolution is a whole bunch of awkward and sad conversations, maybe that’ll keep you on the straight and narrow.
Break it down into manageable chunks
This is something essentially everybody tells you about anything, but it’s true. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step—and continues, step by step.
A New Years’ Resolution isn’t accomplished all at once, but rather gradually. Don’t push yourself too hard, and don’t get down on yourself if your goal is still a long way off.
Set realistic markers along the way, and at each one check in with yourself. That way, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment as you go, and you’ll see your progress stack up.
Care for yourself
Treat your New Year’s Resolution as what it is: a gift. When you accomplish it, not only will you get the benefit of whatever your goal is, but you’ll feel more confidence and pride in yourself.
This feeling of accomplishment is full of benefits: it makes you better poised to chase down the next opportunity, better prepared to be a positive influence in the lives of others, and can even make you live longer.
In making a New Years’ Resolution, and caring about yourself, you’re giving the best present you can give yourself, so don’t think of it as correcting something that’s wrong about you, but giving yourself another thing that’s right about you.
Forgive yourself, don’t define yourself
When a friend who’s made a mistake comes to you for help, do you immediately tell them that they’re worthless, that everybody knows it, and that they should just give up already?
No, but this treatment is something of the norm when it comes to yourself. Unfortunately, many of us treat ourselves this way; we are quick to criticize and slow to forgive.
Strangely enough, this negative self-talk often gives us permission to betray our resolutions.
If you resolve, in 2022, to cut down on carbs and one night you give in to the urge to order a bunch of pasta on Postmates, don’t beat yourself up for it the next morning.
Accept the mistake and continue working toward your goal the next day. Don’t decide you’re undisciplined, gluttonous, and have failed.
Everyone messes up a few times and forgiveness is the best way to move forward.
Use your resolution as a chance to explore new horizons
We all have ideas about who we’d like to be, and we all face the realities of who we are.
While a person who wakes up every morning at 6 a.m. and works out in order to get a clean, fresh start to the day is certainly admirable, that person might not be you. In making resolutions, pick goals that flow organically from who you are.
If you don’t know who you are (because who really does?) then go into a resolution with flexibility.
If, for example, your resolution is to get fit, don’t force yourself into a box with it. Instead, try different exercises, intensities, and intervals.
Don’t stick yourself in the gym for a 45-minute routine with weights when what you’d really enjoy doing is going to a yoga class or going for a run.
Realize that everybody is different, and rather than changing yourself into somebody new, your resolution can be a way of discovering who you might already be.
Think of it as an exploration. Let things develop, and commit to remaining open and focused.
The year, 2022 will likely be another challenging year. You already know why, so there’s no reason to repeat it here.
But remember that you got through 2021, and if your resolution for 2022 is to just survive it sane, healthy, and maybe a little wiser—that’s totally fine.
It’ll take some doing, but you’re definitely further along than you think you are.
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The Overwhelming Mental Health Impact of Climate Change
People across the globe are being affected by climate change. Global warming and climate change are having detrimental effects on the Earth such as increased flooding, hotter temperatures, wildfires, and droughts. Wildlife and ecosystems are being destroyed. Sea levels are rising. The list goes on and it can be overwhelming to take in the effects of climate change. This is why mental health is being greatly affected by climate change, particularly in teenagers and college students.
Anxiety related to the global climate and fear of environmental doom is often referred to as eco-anxiety or climate anxiety. This anxiety is a legitimate reaction to a serious problem. A large population of Generation Z is burdened by climate anxiety. This is because they are concerned about their futures considering the state of the Earth and the fatal implications of climate change.
A contributing factor to climate anxiety is the lack of action currently being taken by political leaders. Many leaders in positions of power are avoiding climate issues rather than solving them. This has prompted members of younger generations to step up and fight for change. Young activists like Greta Thunberg have taken the lead in protesting climate injustices. But watching older generations sit back while climate change is destroying the planet can lead to feelings of frustration and anger, which are common symptoms of climate anxiety.
Climate change can be a controversial topic and there is a fair amount of conflict surrounding it. Everyone reacts differently to the topic: many people shut down when climate change is brought up and they avoid the subject altogether. Others are fearful of the effects of climate change and want to help but feel powerless. And some people are eager to take action and do their part in combating climate change.
Many teenagers and college students have made efforts to reduce their carbon footprint by making lifestyle changes. Going vegan, carpooling, and shopping sustainably are some of the many ways to cut down on carbon emissions. But unfortunately, big corporations are some of the main contributors to climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions––a major contributor to climate change––are the highest they’ve ever been. This leaves young generations as they have difficulty believing that they can make a difference.
How Climate Change Affects Mental Health
Many people are mentally affected by climate change because they have been faced with natural disasters, such as wildfires, serious storms, or flooding. While everyone reacts and copes differently, many survivors of these environmental disasters have some sort of lasting psychological trauma. PTSD, anxiety, depression, and grief are some of the many mental health issues that people who have lived through natural disasters struggle with.
But you don’t need to be directly faced with a natural disaster to feel climate anxiety or despair over the state of the Earth. Just witnessing and learning about climate change is enough to cause mental health issues. There’s a sense of impending doom or existential dread that can wash over you when reflecting on climate change and its effects.
Why Climate Anxiety is Often Overlooked
Climate anxiety is often overlooked or brushed off. This is because it can be difficult to discuss mental health concerns because there are still stigmas surrounding mental health. Climate anxiety is also typically not taken as seriously as other anxieties or mental health issues. This is because many people do not understand the serious, detrimental impacts of climate change.
What to do About Climate Anxiety
- Talk to friends and family about climate change.
Listen to their thoughts on the matter and discuss your own thoughts. Talk about the negative impacts and grieve with them. It can be healing and helpful to share your concerns with others.
- Become a part of the solution!
It is important to stay informed on environmental topics and to use your knowledge for good. Join a climate justice organization at your school or in your community. Connecting with others who also care about climate change can ease your worries and fears about the Earth’s future. Climate organizations are making a difference in your community and educating others on climate change.
- Join protests.
If there are protests near you, make a sign and join in. Marching with other people who care about climate injustices is empowering. Protests help spark change by informing others and raising awareness.
- Do what you can to help the environment.
It is important to do what you can to reduce your own carbon footprint, but don’t become overly consumed with it. Eat a more plant-based diet, bike or carpool when you can, and use reusable bags. But try not to worry about how each of your actions will impact the environment. Those who experience climate anxiety often feel guilty about taking part in activities that affect the environment, like driving. Just do what you can and that will be enough.
How Social Unrest America Mirrors Social Unrest Abroad
With all of America’s recent and pressing events, it is easy to inadvertently ignore major happenings abroad. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest are not limited to American soil.
When the coronavirus began spreading across the globe earlier this year, world leaders reacted to the virus as they saw fit. Fast forward to today, and the virus continues to ravage many parts of the world, increasing the number of total cases to over 50 million people. With the addition of social unrest due to racial injustice, the world seems to have a daunting amount of crises.
Throughout this difficult time, countries imposed restrictions and limitations on their citizens in order to curb the contagion. In certain places, these limitations persist today. Subsequently, people are growing increasingly impatient as the pandemic remains as present and dangerous as it was in March. Indeed, many experts claim that the feared next wave of the virus is now in effect.
The prevailing threat and restrictions put in place have led citizens in some countries to protest. In Spain, for example, citizens have flooded city streets touting messages such as “Stop the dictatorship” or “Madrid says enough.” Unfortunately, certain rabble-rousers have taken it upon themselves to escalate these protests into less peaceful demonstrations of social unrest.
In Madrid, rioters turned unnecessarily violent, setting fires in the city, smashing windows of local shops, and assaulting police officers. These riots do not appear to be the result of spontaneous action but rather a coordinated effort planned through social media.
If the story of peaceful protests being undermined by violent extremists sounds familiar, you may be remembering the various riots that took place in America. The George Floyd protests, unfortunately, broke down into senseless social unrest, resulting in property damage and theft to numerous cities throughout America.
Just as the coronavirus pandemic is not isolated to this country, public assemblies due to racial injustice have also formed globally. As protests advocating for social justice started in American cities, foreign citizens heard the rallying cries. Demonstrations from South America to Europe, to Africa, have echoed the message of the Black Lives Matter movement, demanding justice and equality for all citizens, regardless of skin color. A spokesperson for the Belgian Network for Black Lives, Stephanie Collingwoode-Williams reflected, “people think about how it was relevant where we are.”
Although American protesters set positive trends to confront one crisis, its leaders have not been as successful in combatting the coronavirus. Out of the roughly 1.27 million deaths suffered worldwide, 239,000 of them were American.
This is by far the largest death toll of any country; in addition, America also holds the record for the most cases, by well over one million. These eye-opening statistics naturally lead to critics pointing to this nation’s shortcomings in dealing with the virus. A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, worldwide perceptions of America have been in decline. Recent violent outbursts from police officers, coupled with the mismanagement of the pandemic, have exacerbated this fall.