Fake news is my topic today. The chances are that we have all been effected by fake news in one way or another in recent times and today I wanted to write about how fake news can actually help us all learn a huge amount about ourselves and ultimately make us much better people.

“I am deleting all my friends who are supporters of Brexit” one of my Facebook friends recently posted as their status update. Apparently, she could not maintain friendships with anyone who could not see how much harm Brexit was doing our country and will do to future generations.

Likewise, there is quite a bit of politically motivated sentiment that fills my newsfeed, especially given the current political climate and hot on the heels of a number of elections here in the UK. One of my friends referred to all UKIP supporters as “bigots” and a couple of my friends shared quotes and newspaper pages referring to Jeremy Corbyn as a Trotsky-loving terrorist sympathiser.

In fact, I myself posted a quote from a comedian who I really like that had an anti-Tory message that made sweeping generalisations about Conservative supporters and it upset a couple of my friends during the recent general election here in the UK.

Following the Brexit vote, then our general election, and the climate of world politics a week doesn’t pass that people I know on social media or clients of mine are not seemingly taking up alms in the name of politics or something else happening in the news, usually in a way that is also showing a dislike or disdain for supporters of opposing political perspectives and beholding a fear for the future of the country.

It is mentioned greatly currently, in light of the USA/Russia election allegations and the fact that the President of the USA Donald Trump uses the term so much during his common Twitter rants, and one of the contributing factors to this deepening political and social divide is that of “fake news.” Fake news may be stories or articles that are just downright and blatant lies or fabrications, or just massively biased or incomplete reporting of actual news, or misleading interpretations of actual events, statistics or stories.

Fake news is news that has some sort of an agenda and it goes beyond reporting of objective facts and attempts to lead, influence and persuade the consumer to a particular conclusion or idealistic destination. As well as some mainstream publications having obvious affiliations, leanings and therefore a huge bias in how they present events, there are lengths that some organisations are going to, in order to flavour social media and responses to a lot of fake news, highlighted in popular TV series even…..

In the recent series of Homeland, an anti-government news agency (with a lead character very much like the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones) had a full office building filled with people setting up fake social media accounts and adopting an anti-government political stance to garner favour and support from the masses who consume the media fake news stories. They would add comments, share articles, drum up disdain and try to sway large sections of the electorate to protest against the government’s position on certain debates and against the US president.

Similarly, in the most recent series of South Park showing here in the UK currently, the South Park boys are divided as Butters has developed a call centre of children setting up fake Facebook accounts and are making up lies about the other boys and everyone else at their school and within their community believes the fake news – it is a parody with plenty of truth if the current FBI investigations and Facebook media soundbites are anything to go by.

So we have all of this mass of information and misinformation bombarding us from all directions and what starts happening is that perfectly reasonable people then start arguing and disagreeing on what is fake and what is not!! I have encountered some people agreeing that a news item is fake, yet not really caring because the fake news reflects and sympathises with their own perspective and viewpoint though the same people get rattled and care a great deal more when the bias or fake news goes against their held beliefs – this is then considered a bad thing that is blighting integrity and masking the truth.

I read another article on this topic yesterday and it cited a respected survey called “The American National Election Studies” which explores and researches the political opinions of the American population. They stated that 30 years ago, “people’s feelings toward those in the opposite political party were NOT that different from how they felt about those in their own party.”

This is a stark contrast to that of today where opinions tend to be polarised and vitriolic towards opposing views and political stances. There are relatively few people who adopt the stance of “respectfully disagreeing” and more people who get upset and therefore demonise the opposing perspective. I think some of this comes from the way politics is conducted these days, certainly some of the UK and US elections of recent times have been very acrimonious and divisive in and of themselves.

It is this notion of polarisation and fake news that I think presents us all with a great opportunity. At the same time, perhaps we get the chance to open the curtains, let the light in and remove some of the ill-tempered shade that is covering so much of the world at the moment. It requires a great deal of objectivity, honesty, bravery and humility because we have to identify our own blind spots, our own belief systems, our own biases and really invest our effort in improving who and how we are, how we conduct ourselves and how we impact upon the world around us.

When I shared the quip online that was offensive to one political party, I thought it was funny because it supported my political leaning. Yet when similar jokes were made about the leaders and important figures representing my political stance and leaning, I felt offended and got a bit precious and annoyed. Today, I see that in myself and it makes me slightly uncomfortable. Often, when we look closely at who and how we’ve been in this regard, it is not always all that flattering and we may choose to distract ourselves from that, ignore it, or seek to defend ourselves further among like-minded people as a means of putting our head in the sand and staying where we are – potentially contributing to the discord!

And it is not reserved for the politically themed news, even my beloved field of hypnotherapy gets a splash of Fake News from time to time: Why “Science by Press Release” In The Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis Fields Frustrates Me.

A lot of people, without even realising they are doing it, often do the following:

a) They seek out and look for information that confirms and supports their pre-existing beliefs. As a result, they’ll tend to overlook, be suspicious of, or respond negatively to information that challenges those held beliefs.
b) They find it incredibly difficult to admit they are wrong when it involves those firmly held beliefs.
c) They tend to excuse the bad behaviour of people that they identify with, and will simultaneously criticise the exact same behaviour in people they oppose.
d) They derive some degree of satisfaction when those they deeply disagree with are ridiculed; and will become defensive (even angry) when those they identify with or support are ridiculed.
e) When any of the points a-d above are highlighted out during a heated discussion or debate, they are likely to deny or attempt to justify what they are doing.
f) They are likely to read the above a-d points and agree that the usual and typical person is guilty of such things, but be convinced that they themselves are more objective than those other typical people.

Recognise any of that in yourself? Then you are likely to find these articles very useful and beneficial reading too:

1. Critical Thinking: Its Importance and Ways to Improve It.
2. Another Scientific Reason For Hypnotherapists to Abandon the Myth of the Unconscious Mind – Cognitive Bias.

The great news is that there is plenty that we can do about it.

We all need to start from a place where we are prepared and open-minded enough to admit our own biases, make it our aim to be fairer and to treat those with whom we disagree in the same way we would like to be treated ourselves. With that mindset truly in place, we can start to take some action.

Step One: Attempt to find some merit, however small it may be, in the news stories and articles that you are exposed to. Strive to develop an understanding of what is being attempted to be conveyed.

When discussing or debating, in addition to presenting and arguing with objective facts, also look to understand some of the deeper reasons why the other person feels and responds the way they are doing. They may have a story that underpins their belief system.

Step Two: Ask the question “What do I actually lose if I update or change some of my beliefs?”

Do I have a bias here? Do I have a need to be right? Do I have some loyalty keeping me in a particular mindset? Am I being stubborn? Do I fear the consequences of changing?

Step Three: Have you or do you label the people that you disagree with in derogatory ways? If you applied the same labels to yourself, would there be any truth in them? Would others agree with those labels being applied to you, do you think? How accurate do you think such labels are?

Have you referred to someone else as being closed to alternating perspectives, or being hypocritical? Are you seeing that in others because you wish to hide the fact that you are being that way?

Step Four: Cease with writing inflaming comments in divisive debates on social media networks. Look to enlighten if at all possible, but leaving your ego at the door and not being judgmental or trying to correct others. Consider how what you write effects those with opposing views.

Step Five: Use self-hypnosis, mindfulness, or other strategies that will help you to heighten your awareness of yourself honestly and objectively so that you can look to update what you do, open your own mind, recognise flaws and aim to make a major uplifting contribution to the lives of those that you come into contact with.

There is going to be much more Fake News coming our way, and the very subject is going to be in our newsfeed in coming weeks as the big FBI investigations into Russia’s involvement in the Trump/Clinton election start to unravel in the US. So how about we use it as an opportunity to hone how we think, how we appraise information and also how we communicate to others and heighten awareness of our own processes? I think we can use the Fake News to advance and rise up out of it all the better with the right mindset and approach to it.

1. Have bias, negative beliefs or poor thinking habits held you back and is it still doing so now? Do you need to learn how to develop better ways of thinking?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others develop better thinking habits?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist for whom bias, negative beliefs or poor thinking habits are negatively effecting the success of your business? Do you need to be more effective to fulfil your career ambitions?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.

Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar.