Life

PROULX: Are you buying your own fake news?

Shaun Proulx says it isn't just malevolent operatives creating fake news, we do it ourselves in relation to our own lives. AMI

Shaun Proulx says it isn't just malevolent operatives creating fake news, we do it ourselves in relation to our own lives. AMI

SHAUN PROULX/ 24 HOURS

Since the people, ideas, and values we allow in our orbit play a great role in the degree of happiness and well-being we feel in our lives, controlling what gets in close proximity is worth managing. Many of us allow fake news to snuggle in tight, the kind that officially became a phenomenon during the last U.S. election, as well as the fake news we all play in our minds about who we are.

The fake news appearing mostly on social media is deliberately compelling, usually designed to make you furious or incredulous so you take the action of sharing it. Remember the false report claiming Trump supporters were chanting "we hate Muslims, we hate blacks, we want our great country back?" It and other fake news like it drew more shares and engagement in the final three months of the campaign than reports from The New York Times and other trusted sources. Fake news - found on sites designed to imitate mainstream sources - is click-bait, and with clicks come profit: $30,000 a month according to one site owner in Los Angeles, revealed during an interview on National Public Radio.

That kind of profit means fake news isn't likely to disappear soon. (Nor can we rely much on the next generation of news consumers, apparently. Researchers assessing almost 8,000 American high school and college students were shocked and dismayed by their inability to distinguish an online article from an advertisement, never mind whether the article itself was real or fake.)

But in a world where "transgender tampons are now on the market" and where a woman can be "arrested for defecating on boss' desk after winning the lottery," accepting fake is, over time, allowing a buildup of digital toxic waste into your sphere. To prevent it, control your orbit. If you have friends who share fake news, mute them. Google Chrome has released three plugins for the browser you can install, while DailyDot.com has published a definitive list of fake news sites on Facebook, one of the major sources of news crap. Share responsibly, and especially withhold from hate-clicking when you know a story was created for the sole purpose of making you angry (because it worked). Why help someone profit off of spreading hate?

The other news to lose is the fake news in the form of all untruths inside our minds about who we are. It can come in the form of old news (therefore now fake): we brand ourselves something today based on something we were decades ago. Sometimes it was a parent, or someone else well-meaning, who gave us fake news that today is holding us back. One friend told me recently about another romantic relationship that had fizzled. As a child, a family member predicted they'd "never have a problem catching butterflies in their net - but they would always have a problem keeping them." And so it has come to pass.

Some of us catastrophize when describing our lives, an insipid form of internal fake news. I recently challenged another friend who often says "my life is now destroyed," when referring to an unpleasant experience long past. It was a beautiful summer's day, we were comfortable in his home, paid for by his reliable income, eating the Eggs Benedict he'd just prepared for us with homemade Hollandaise sauce, listening to the new Gorillaz album. Hardly sitting in a life ruined, but in believing his highly dramatic fake news, my friend gets so upset he feels immobilized at times.

We should always challenge our internal fake news. What fake news did someone tell you once that you believe still? What did you tell yourself once upon a time that is actually false? What are you telling yourself today? If it's not true, rewrite the tape going on in your head. Your online life and offline life is yours to shape. But it takes conscious deliberate choices of what fake news and real news you allow onto your screens, and into your mind.

The Shaun Proulx Show's #SummerOfYes series airs on SiriusXM Canada Talks channel 167 through September. He is the publisher of TheGayGuideNetwork.com and leads a #ThoughtRevolution about busting through personal limits on ShaunProulx.com