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Thursday, August 11, 2022
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

"How do you spell ""gullible""?"

In this day and age, it's so easy to find information. Wikipedia is one click away, and blogs abound. Radio and TV personalities are also popular sources.
The problem is that no one thinks twice about whether his or her source is credible.
Sure, many people know by now to take Wikipedia with several grains of salt, but for some reason, all bets are off for just about any other source. People quote radio talk show hosts as if God Himself gave them this information.
Something to note: just because you hear it from an "expert" doesn't mean it's true.
A sad trend in today's society is that even those rare few who are willing to do their own research can be misled by the staggering amount of false information they're sure to encounter.
In this situation, it's easy to become paranoid about everything you read – but that's a good thing. Everything should be questioned.
Statistics can vary widely depending on who's doing the research and what methods are used. They can also be misinterpreted very easily. For instance, many people believe that the divorce rate is 50 percent. That's because in recent years, the number of divorces is about half the number of marriages. However, since the people who got married that year are not the same people getting divorced, the divorce rate isn't 50 percent – it's actually only about 3 or 4 percent.
Oh, and that number isn't rising; it's actually been decreasing for the last few years.
I learned these facts in several of my sociology classes. If I had come across this information myself, it's likely that I would have interpreted it wrong as well, even though it came from US census information, which is a credible source. That's why it's so important to find someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about to help you interpret certain information.
People can spout anything on their own blogs; even newspapers and magazines can fall prey to laziness and skip the fact-checking.
Last year, when composer Maurice Jarre died, a college student named Shane Fitzgerald edited Jarre's Wikipedia page to include what were supposedly his last words. Several well-respected newspapers printed the quote, which proves that the writers simply went to Wikipedia for their information – a huge gaffe for anyone to make, let alone national newspapers.
Every new piece of information you encounter should be questioned, either through your own common sense or someone you're sure is trustworthy. Obviously you'll be fooled sometimes, since even respectable sources can make mistakes, but you'll be protecting yourself more often than not.
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Think your own thoughts and form your own opinions; don't just blindly repeat what you read on someone's blog as if it's infallible.

E-mail: jennifer.lombardo@ubspectrum.com


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