Always consider the source

Published 9:41 am Thursday, June 11, 2015

You never realize how many contacts you have in your email account until you’ve been hacked.

Yesterday, my work email was taken over and someone sent more than 500 email recipients messages asking them to click a link. In the next hour, I received more than 250 emails from people verifying that I actually sent the email, double-checking that the information in my message was correct and safe to open.

More than half of the people who received this message were skeptical about its contents, and went straight to the source to find out the validity of it.

If only so many people considered the source for all types of information they receive. Case in point: social media.

Regardless of your age or media preference, it’s safe to say that if you’re online, you’ve seen just how obsessed with these practices people have become. We’re a social bunch of human beings, eager to connect with people as quickly and as often as possible — even if that means not having face-to-face contact.

For all the benefits of connectivity and networking, these sites have created problems that we need to be more conscious of. Information is disseminated so quickly that news is able to spread as quick as lightning.

Like most things, this capability comes with its pros and cons.

On the plus side, the rapidity of social media allows messages to be conveyed quickly. People are able to raise money for a given cause in hours, rather than weeks. Teams and groups can learn that practice is canceled or a meeting is postponed with just a couple clicks, rather than calling each person individually.

Unfortunately, bad news travels just as quickly as good news, and all too often, misinformation spreads like wildfire.

Just like the message sent from my account enticing my contacts to click a link to view a document, provocative headlines and curious pictures entice readers to click a link and believe whatever they read or see.

We’ve grown so comfortable with the convenience of social media that we’re beginning to forget the value of considering the source. Anyone with a smart phone or computer is capable of spreading information quickly, and too many people believe everything they read online.

Too often, we share the viral video or “news” link without verifying the credibility of the source. Creating a blog or website can be easy enough to be a one-man operation, meaning that the time and resources invested into disseminating information is miniscule in comparison to reputable news outlets.

Of course, money and manpower are not the only indicators of credible sources. Plenty of high-dollar news entities report news before they get all the facts, and sometimes, the more hens there are in the hen house, the more scrambled the eggs become.

Nonetheless, I urge you to approach news published everywhere — online, in your newspaper, on TV, on the radio, etc. — with the same skepticism you would a spam email or phishing scheme. Consider the credibility of the message, and when in doubt, contact the source.


Ambrosia Neldon is the managing editor at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7713, or by email at