Thanks to a certain US president, the term “fake news” is a popular term that has been jokingly thrown around social media with reference to his humorous antics in defence of his reputation. Online memes aside, however, fake news is a real issue that affects us within the context of our everyday lives. The result of sharing inaccurate stories about individuals and organisations has more impact than you might think.

Let’s paint a picture here. So you’re browsing your feed and see a news story. It’s got all the glitz, all the glam, and all of the oh-so-juicy scandal. The headline reads that a high-profile politician is set to be cast as a new character in Days of Our Lives. You hit share because breaking the exciting scoop to your friends is fun! Now it’s onwards to brew a morning cup of tea after spilling the metaphorical one all over the internet. The day runs as per normal and your repost gains traction amongst your followers, friends, online community or whatever you want to call it.

At the end of the day, you discover a whole bunch of likes, shocked emoji reactions, shares from your post and it feels great! That is until you read a comment from one of your friends telling you to “Do your homework because this news is fake with a capital F!”. Congratulations, you’re an accomplice to furthering a dishonest website’s agenda and you’ve also made yourself and everyone who’s shared your post look gullible. The spread of fake news goes further than this innocent example, however. Harmful rumours have crippled individual’s careers and bombed brands’ reputations.

If you’re looking to be a part of the solution to this online epidemic as opposed to a catalyst, here are a few tips to remember the next time you’re scrolling down your feed. First, scrutinise the source by researching the reputation of a website. Are they known for accurate reports? Can other sources corroborate their stories? Second, take hyped-up headlines with a pinch of salt. They’re written to grab your attention and it’s worth reading the article itself before sharing, as more often than not you’ll find it to be misleading. Lastly, and the most important tip: Don’t believe everything you read!

Now go out there and become the social justice keyboard warrior you were meant to be. The truth and the reputation of our politicians’ acting careers depend on it.