My favourite TV show - Although it finished nearly 18 years ago, I think my favourite has still got to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. More recently I thought Succession was a great show, mainly because the characters were just so awful My favourite place to go - The Lake District, but anywhere with mountains and water will do My favourite city - Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s really laid back, fantastic galleries, museums and architecture My favourite thing to do in my free time - Is it cliché for a librarian to answer this with reading? I’ve just finished Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo and thought it was amazing. I’ve always got at least two books on the go. Otherwise I really like learning new crafts and do a lot of mixed media type stuff. If you see me with inky fingers, it’s what I’ve been doing My favourite athlete/sports personality - I don’t really follow team sports, but Jessica Ennis-Hill has had an amazing career. The discipline and determination to excel in such a range of events is extraordinary My favourite actor – Matt Berry is a terrific comic actor, he never fails to make me laugh. For more serious acting, I really like Elizabeth Moss My favourite author - impossible to pick just one My favourite drink - it depends on the time of day, but either a really hot cup of tea or an Aperol spritz My favourite food - Cheese My favourite place to eat - my mums, especially if it’s Christmas Day I like people who - are considerate and don’t mind poking fun at themselves I don’t like it when people - are rude to or dismissive of people trying to help them My favourite book - there are different favourites for different times in your life. I still love E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, which I first read in my teens. Last year I read John Boyne’s The Heart's Invisible Furies which was just brilliant. I love being surprised by a new ‘favourite’ My favourite book character - Little My from Tove Jansson’s Moomins series, she doesn’t take any crap My favourite film - Stand by Me. It’s an adaptation of a Stephen King short story and never fails to make me have a little cry My favourite poem - Either 'The Applicant' by Sylvia Plath or Carol Ann Duffy’s 'Prayer'. I wrote my undergrad dissertation on Plath and still love her writing now My favourite artist/band - I mainly listen to stuff from the 60s and 70’s with quite a bit of 90’s/00’s indie thrown in too; Bowie, Blondie, Blur and the like. I used to love discovering new exciting bands when I was a teenager and it’s something I should make an effort with again My favourite song - Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks or Back to the Old House by The Smiths My favourite art - I can’t ever resist a gallery and like a mix of styles, but I do really like John William Waterhouse. I also really like book illustrations (it’s the ex-children’s librarian in me) and Jim Kay’s illustrations in A Monster Calls are just stunning My favourite person from history - I don’t really have one favourite, but when I visited Norwich I read about Edith Cavell, who was a pioneering British nurse working in Belgium during WW1. She helped injured soldiers on all sides, as well as civilians and later helped around 200 allied soldiers escape to safety. She was eventually caught, tried at court martial for treason and later executed. She was extremely brave and insistent about continuing to help others, even when it endangered herself
If you’re anything like me, the last few weeks you’ve probably found yourself fighting your way through a tsunami of information that’s coming from all directions. Notifications are going into overdrive with social media apps, news apps and browsers desperate to deliver more and more content, at ever increasing frequencies. Add to this all the stories, videos and memes friends and family are also sharing and it’s hard to know where to look first. The sheer volume of content makes it harder than ever to know what is fact, fake or opinion. In honesty, it can all be a bit overwhelming.
How do you even begin sorting the information that’s being thrown at you when you can’t keep up with how quickly your news feeds are moving
1. Sort the fact from the fiction
There’s nothing like a pandemic to send the fake news mills into overdrive. Many are easy to spot, the 2020 version of an urban myth (My neighbour’s, brother’s dog is a top civil servant and says….) others are much more sophisticated and purport to be from trusted sources. The Guardian (Mercier, 2020) reports on the danger of these stories and the tragic consequences that can occur when people believe them.
Why are we so susceptible to fake news stories though? They use “truthiness” to play on our fears and biases. If it sounds like something we think could be true, if it confirms our prejudices or worries, we’re more likely to believe it.
Fact checking is more important than ever. Take a moment to think before you share – what is the source? where are their sources? For more tips on spotting fake news check out this guide (IFLA, 2020) or use an independent reputable fact checking site such as Full Fact. This blog article from the Information Literacy Group (Bedford, 2020) pulls together a selection of reliable information sources related to Covid-19.
2. Bursting your bubble
Personalised content from news feeds can be useful, but we often don’t even realise the news stories and content we’re seeing in apps has been chosen by an algorithm. Their purpose is to feed us stories they think we will like, to keep us reading longer. This can be convenient, but it can also be misleading. We get trapped in a filter bubble that feeds us the type of content we like and usually from a perspective that agrees with our own way of thinking.
Sometimes we need to know what else is going on in the world outside our specific areas of interest though and sometimes we need to consider viewpoints we don’t necessarily agree with, so we can make an informed judgement.
These algorithms can also get things wrong. My own Google news feed weirdly seems to think I’m interested in anything vaguely related to British Airways, Coventry City Football Club and Meghan Markle (I’d like to state for the record I’m not particularly interested in any of these things). This is without considering the inherent biases they have built into them, before they even start their work (algorithm bias is a whole other blog article in itself).
It’s human nature to want to hear things that agree with our way of thinking and reinforce our own world view, we follow people we like and admire, we choose news sources that confirm our way of thinking, but there is a risk of missing the bigger picture when sat in our bubble. Rather than letting the news come to you, go direct to several news sources (maybe even some that have a different political leaning to you, if you feel like being challenged). Be active in seeking news stories, rather than passively consuming them.
3. Step away from the news feed (when you need to)
It’s a bit of a balancing act, we need to know enough to be informed and stay safe without spending 24/7 plugged in. We’re not superhuman though and sometimes we need to accept that just because it’s on our feed, we’re not obliged to engage. Give yourself permission to skip stories, mute notifications and be selective when you need to. We all have different saturation points, mine will vary day to day, but listen to yourself and know when it’s time to switch off. If it helps, set reminders on your apps to give you a nudge when you’ve spent a certain amount of time on them. The Mental Health Foundation (2020) have some tips for looking after your mental health in relation to news coverage of Covid-19.
If you need help finding information or want support evaluating sources the Academic Librarian team are offering online tutorials and an online drop-in service. You can also contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Academic Liaison Manager, LLS
Bedford, D. (2020) Covid-19: Seeking reliable information in difficult times. Information Literacy Group [online]. Available from: https://infolit.org.uk/covid-19-seeking-reliable-information-in-difficult-times/ [Accessed 31/03/2020].
IFLA (2020) How to spot fake news. IFLA [online]. Available from: https://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11174 [Accessed 31/03/2020].
Mental Health Foundation (2020) Looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak. Mental Health Foundation [online]. Available from: https://mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak [Accessed 31/03/2020]
Mercier, H. (2020) Fake news in the time of coronavirus: how big is the threat? The Guardian [online]. 30th March. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/30/fake-news-coronavirus-false-information [Accessed 31/03/2020].