/SLASH/

Free alcohol in UCG

A) To figure out how to get free alcohol read to the end of the article

B) For those who didn't get the memo: attend your classes, it's still mandatory

“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; it's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” – Mark Twain

Being people that are interested in educating ourselves, I’m assuming that, at least on some level, we all have some issues with the maxim “ignorance is bliss”. However, as Mark Twain so eloquently expressed, it’s not ignorance that often gets in the way of our success, it’s misinformation that we mistake for being true. And what is a greater source of misinformation than the Internet?

 

Since the 21st century, the Internet has been steadily establishing itself in the centre of our lifestyles, and, with our help, has overtaken the throne as our main news source. Less and less people watch 24/7 news channels, and even less read newspapers and news magazines, which makes the Internet the most powerful force over the information we receive. We all know that with great power, great responsibility ought to follow, but we also (hopefully) know, that no one is really holding the Internet accountable, or expecting it to be an intellectually responsible place of discourse. That responsibility, fortunately or unfortunately, is ours, and it’s an important one.

 

If you were waiting in line at Starbucks and some random girl told you that drinking almond milk makes you ace your exams, before wandering off with her triple non-fat Iced Caramel Macchiato, you wouldn’t necessarily switch from intensive studying  to breathing almond milk. You would be even less likely to believe it if that girl happened to be an employee at Starbucks with an interest in getting you to buy that almost expired almond milk, because you know she has an incentive to lie to you.

 

And that’s the thing with the Internet, anyone who writes anything (me too) has an interest in selling you their almond milk, whether that takes the form of a product, a politician, a narrative that suits their interests, or a sadistic false hope of UCG dropping its attendance policy (sorry not sorry).

I don’t want you to cynically reject everything or ask you to do in-depth research on every little thing you read while browsing Facebook. That would be a rather unfulfilling and time-consuming lifestyle. After all, our society is built on the foundation of trust. We trust what we’re taught at school, we trust what our scientists say, we trust the expiration date on our food, the quality of our products, and so on. I never witnessed World War II, I never actually saw a mitochondrion in a cell, I never verified nor even know how to verify when my food will expire, and I never saw my smartphone pass radiation tests. Yet, I still trust all of the above, and our society functions around this implicit shared trust amongst its members. It’s definitely not an infallible system, and anyone who ate bad sushi can back me up on this, but more often than not it works, and it’s not our purpose to shatter that foundation.

 

We’re simply asking you to not gullibly accept every article or blog you see online, because they are just as likely to have been written by your almond milk starbucks girl, and no more likely to be valid. Unsurprisingly for a writing committee, here at /SLASH/, we place great emphasis on online responsibility and truthfulness, and we found a few things you can systematically do to enable yourselves to detect lies and bullshit:

First, every time you find yourself reading an article ask yourself, “why am I reading this?” By asking this question you force yourself to become aware of your objective (if there is one), and prevent yourself from reading for the sake of reading something to quench your boredom. This absent-minded reading we engage in when we’re bored and browsing social media often makes us more susceptible to casually accepting falsehoods without critical thinking.

A second way to detect possible lies or bullshit is by seeing the publication name. This is not to say that established news outlets like the Economist and the Guardian are unerring, but looking for the publication name can save you significant time before embarking on a blog written by a tin-foil hat wearer in his mum’s basement about the illuminati injecting mind-controlling microchips in our strawberries.

Thirdly, be generally cautious of articles that sound too good to be true. It is said that great journalism often challenges its readers and may contain difficult-to-accept truths. So if you find yourself reading an article about Trump saving the rainforests, or your school dropping its strict 80% attendance policy, you may want to reevaluate that article before telling your friends.

Lastly, and this is reserved for more special cases, make sure you fact check what you’re reading. This is not always easy or even possible, but it is often necessary, especially when you’re gathering information for an essay or presentation.

 

Ultimately, there is no single trick to always ensure that what you’re reading is true. The best we can do, through practice and education, is teach ourselves to be critical readers, and most importantly critical thinkers, that don’t believe everything they read online.

 

And remember that eloquent Mark Twain quote at the beginning of the article? Well, it wasn’t by Mark Twain. We’ve been over this. Don’t believe everything you read online. And for those still reading with the hopes of getting free alcohol... Will you ever learn?


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