Trust is the glue that keeps us bonded to close friends and cherished family members. Trust keeps a society from totally collapsing into chaos. Nearly every day, we have to trust complete strangers to follow societal rules to give us the right cash back when we buy something, for a bank transaction or when we stroll across the road on a green light. But the onus is on us to be armed if possible, with the right information at the right time to check that a car will not run us down, count our money change or check our information sources. We learn to trust ourselves and gain confidence by having the right information for the right situation. Or do we?
With Internet and now, social media information from blogs, Facebook and Twitter, our trust is continuously tested. I hope that sometimes we stop and reflect to question that information nugget we found in someone’s blog or via a tweet.
CEO, Matthew Harrington of Information Today, a multimedia publisher on information trends, consumer patterns and technology, notes that social media networking might alter the definition of “friend” as a reliable source of information.
There are consumers who still only trust the people they see every day as their “friends” or only a core group of friends on Facebook/another social network. There are also those who trust all of their “social networked”/casual acquaintance “friends.” With the growth/extension of casual circles and acquaintances via peer networks, it can indeed be harder for some to know whom to trust – thus diluting trust levels in “friends.” But with both groups, there are opportunities for brands. There is still a core group of influencers that can change how people trust and influence the actions of others; and consumers, whether they are close to them or not, will follow their lead.
In the area of business and news, he also felt for news about a company, there were still some staple sources were deemed “reliable”. Based on an international survey:
Question: Despite the reported drop, is trust in friends still the most trusted of all traditionally measured sources (eg broadcast news, newspapers, etc.)
Answer: Actually it is industry analyst or stock reports and articles in business magazines that held strong as the most trusted sources of information about a company.
When considering how credible each of the following is as a source of information about a company, the 20-country global total results for ages 25-64 are as follows:
- Stock or industry analyst reports is #1 with 49%
- Articles in business magazines is #2 with 44%
- Conversations with company employees is #3 with 41%
- News coverage on the radio is #4 with 38%
Notice that the survey results do not include a company’s website with equal ranking as other sources. But of course, a company website has some of the same published information sources such as stock or analyst reports.
The article does not note the number of people in the survey. U.S. results yield similar percentage breakdowns.
Information overload – Personal Privacy
Nowadays what has clouded our trust, is information overload and our sense of personal privacy. Now with social media networking barn doors flung open, the definition of personal privacy is challenged with group-sharing, even verging on voyeurism in extreme cases, about our opinions, personal details and even about our own cherished in-person relationships –with strangers whom we have never met yet.
They feel someone has invaded their privacy. They believe their personal information will be misused. In a democratic society, if we cannot trust like Statistics Canada, an expert national government agency in statistical analysis and data handling, then who else can we trust? Could some of these complaining folks be the same people flaunting their personal love life and bodies on their blog, facebook or web site? I wonder.
This sorry state of affairs may reflect some lack of information literacy: understanding why the information is requested, how it is created, used, stored, protected, which parties are legally held accountable as information custodian and how the information, stripped of personal names and addresses, can benefit many diverse groups both in non-profit and private sectors to develop products, services and programs. I bet most people do not even realize there is federal law devoted exclusively to define the mandate and authority of Statistics Canada.
But rather than sigh over the confusion which is making national headlines, I hope that at least I will check some additional information sources when I write for any blog. I hope to give a link to the direct source of my information.
I use these tips below to help myself assess information:
- Author(s)- Do they have any direct experience or knowledge on topic? Their organizational affiliation, employer(s)? Their work roles? How have they gained any ‘inside knowledge’. Have they published in other stable information sources that you can relocate in 1-2, even 10 years from now?
- Year/date of publication
- Organization– which published the information. Their mandate and longevity. Is there a listed address, phone number to contact them?
- Version– Draft, final, revised, law in effect at this time? Is version clearly stated?
- Geographic location of author(s) /organization
- Purpose of blog, website: Is it clearly stated? Who contributes to the information? Or is it a splog? How often does it seem to be updated?
There are people who have spent a large chunk of their careers on teaching information literacy: educators, librarians and more. I am one of these people. Such folks also include lawyers, judges, doctors, who are concerned that the public are getting the right legal or medical information. There is ongoing exploration and debate for these folks to determine how to teach and alert people to pay attention to the right sources of information. Equip people with some tips.
As for fostering trust, information sourcing and dealing with people: yes, I’d rather meet some people directly if we have read and discussed each other’s content among ourselves and with others for a long period of time.
There are ways to limit your scope of trust but still engage in a lively, thought provoking and respectful discussion in a safe manner –either in person or over the Internet.
- Do you have several good friends who are experts in certain areas and can help you filter Internet information in an emergency situation?
- What sources of information do you rely heavily for news, financial, services and programs? Is it all from the Internet?
- Name some trustworthy blogs or websites that you use. Why are they trustworthy to you? Or do you care?
- What do you do to make yourself trustworthy as a blogger/ as a blog information source or social media participant?
- How did you develop your skill to distinguish between good and unreliable information for your blog? For other areas of your life? Which expertise areas do you trust yourself to have the strongest knowledge to write and speak at length to others?
By the way, I did cite a Statistics Canada census information for a blog post. It is the best and broadest source of statistical information to help us understand general population characteristics and changes in socio-economic trends for residents in Canada.
Let’s discuss this further.
Berkman, Robert. “Trusting Our Friends Less? Edelman CEO Answers Questions.” In Intelligent Agent. Mar. 17, 2010. Published by Information Today.
Galloway, Gloria. “What the census feud is all about”. In the Globe and Mail, Jun. 19, 2010.
Richards, John. “In defense of the long census form”. In Vancouver Sun, Jun. 20, 2010.
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