Thomas Birch believes that you should be critical of the information you receive.

Breaking News: Pigs Fly!

Once thought to be impossible, it has now been confirmed that pigs can fly. The startling discovery came as John Smith, a resident of a small town in England, witnessed the animal hovering in the sky.

“I saw this strange thing flying above my farm,” Mr Smith said.

“After a few confused minutes I realised that it was a pig.”

Smith contacted the local authorities and had his claims verified by the National Organisation of Flying Species (NOFS).

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, I had to make sure it was real,” he said.

“Now that the police and NOFS have confirmed it was actually a pig flying, I feel like I’ve changed the course of history, it’s all very surreal.”

Scientists across the world are now investigating how the incident occurred.

Fake news, it’s a problem. If you didn’t know by now, everything you just read was fake.

False. Fictitious. Not true.

Pigs can’t fly and John Smith didn’t see anything to prove otherwise (even the National Organisation of Flying Species is a made-up organisation), sorry.

We are living in a digital age where information can be accessed and spread across numerous channels. Social media, websites and blogs have become synonymous with not only entertainment and uploading selfies, but also with news.

Last year the Pew Research Center found that 62 per cent of U.S. adults got their news on social media and 93 per cent of Australian adults used the internet or owned a smartphone. (In fact, the majority of adults in advanced economies use the internet.)

Due to the high percentages of internet usage and the trend of accessing news online, it’s safe to say that the potential for news to spread and reach a large number of people via the web is great.

One of the downsides of our ever-connected lives is the reality that fake news and misinformation can spread like wild-fire, deceiving the minds of countless people, one smartphone and one click at a time.

The term “fake news” is now so prominent that it has been named Word of the Year for 2016 by Macquarie Dictionary.

In spite of the issue of fake news dominating the public discourse recently, it seems that people still fall victim to its dishonest disposition. A few days ago I witnessed people on social media constantly sharing posts and articles that had absolutely no basis in fact, despite claiming otherwise (a simple Google search could have informed them that what they were sharing was nonsense). While people sharing questionable content online is nothing new, it still angered me. Why? Because spreading misinformation is irresponsible and potentially damaging.

It’s crucial, arguably now more than ever, to take a step back and ask yourself “is this true?” when receiving information. Just because someone proclaims something to be true it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. Remember, the only alternatives to facts are falsehoods or opinions.

The truth will always be the truth, regardless of people’s opinions.

If you see something online that seems phony, investigate. Is it verifiable? Check the source, is it reliable? Don’t take everything you see at face value. And please, for the love of all that is true and factual, don’t share or promote fake news (unless of course you’re doing so in an attempt to highlight its deceitfulness).

It’s important to cast a critical eye over everything you see online, and elsewhere for that matter. Fail to do so and it could mean that you fall victim to a load of make-believe garbage.

I, for one, think that the world needs less garbage without people adding to the pile.

Don’t you?