Listening to stay informed


From understanding and working together with our neighbors, to broadening our perspective on issues of policy and identity, listening allows us to build on our knowledge about the world–and the people–around us. 

However, beyond the conversations we have with other people, we also listen to the information we receive from the news, from online social networks, and from other forms of media. When we’re listening to stay informed, we must also keep an eye out for information that’s designed to mislead.

The difference between DISINFORMATION and MISINFORMATION lies in the purpose of the message.

Disinformation is false information intentionally crafted in order to deceive its audience, while misinformation is information that’s shared by someone who doesn’t know that it’s not true.

While the creator of a piece of purposefully manipulative or false information would be spreading disinformation; someone who retweets, reblogs, or reposts it while believing it to be true would be spreading misinformation.  In order to listen broader, listen better, and listen smarter, it’s important to know how to spot false information, and how to avoid perpetuating it.


Some quick tips for combating misinformation and disinformation:

1. Do the research. Before you share a purported fact, piece of research, or news article, make sure to read through it in full and cross-reference it with other sources to avoid accidentally spreading falsehoods. 

2. Learn and employ techniques of digital citizenship. In 2017, the internet and social media were the primary news source for a majority of Americans, making crucial skills like digital literacy, data security, and learning how to spot false information online.

3. Broaden your media scope. We tend to prefer media that reaffirms our existing beliefs, but stepping outside of your bubble and broadening the sources of information you consume can help you better identify when something is false, biased, or not showing the full story.


As the digital world continues to intertwine with the physical word, it’s important to be mindful of the information we choose to consume. Watch this short clip of Texas high school student Nia Adeogun as she explains the steps she takes to combat disinformation and stay informed. To hear more about how students are tackling issues of disinformation, polarization, and other current issues, watch the full version of our Future of the South event here.


This listening tip is part of a weekly #PledgeToListen series which provides advice, examples, and perspectives on creating conversations across divides.

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