In the pre-television days, the flow of information into our lives was like a lazy, meandering stream. We'd read the daily newspaper, listen to the radio, and pick up other tidbits about our world through magazines, word-of-mouth, or personal experience.
Once TV was added to the mix, the stream turned into a full-blown river. Multiple channels expanded the flow exponentially. Our senses had to work overtime to process all this new information.
Then came the granddaddy of them all.
Suddenly the river was a raging torrent. We are bombarded by data constantly, through our computers and cell phones. Facebook alone is a steady stream of commentary, pictures, opinions, and opinions disguised as fact. Millions of websites vie for your attention, putting their own spin on the news of the day. In an election year, this becomes especially problematic -- how do you navigate the torrent and determine what's true and what is not?
Fortunately, the same technology that brought us information overload has also supplied us with some excellent tools for separating truth from fiction. Rebecca Vernon, our library director, recently compiled a list of fact-checking websites to help with this process. These sites maintain that they are non-partisan and neutral. You, of course, must be the judge of that, but they probably wouldn't exist very long if it were discovered that they were choosing sides.
snopes.com -- one of the granddaddies of fact checking sites. Next time you get one of those chain letters or read an alarming post on Facebook, check it's veracity on snopes. Only takes a second.
hoax-slayer.com -- run by a gentleman in Australia. Similar to snopes.
procon.org - pros/cons of controversial issues, including politics
charitynavigator.com - evaluate the various charities that are soliciting you for donations
opensecrets.org - tracks lobbyists, political money