Almost Real

The lines between information and misinformation, real and imagined, have blurred. In a study by M.I.T. professor Sinan Arai, he notes that false stories spread faster than true ones.(*)

Humans love novelty, and the brain is attracted to challenge. Put those together, and made-up horror stories top the charts. Remember this one during last year's election? "Pedophile ring operates out of Clinton-linked pizzeria."

For younger sharers, having an incendiary story can convey status. Adding emotion to the tale elicits surprise, and the story is in the wind. How do we return to integrity, and consume information that is not just an accelerant to our dark angels? Certainly not by labeling the other side "fake news."

When you speak, employ the strategies and tactics that the squawkers use, but do it for a positive purpose. Infuse your presentations with novelty and surprise. Drive your stories with emotion to engage audiences and embed your message into their memory. Show your commitment. Speak openly about the challenges you face. And speak without affectation or bluster.

(*) For all categories of information - politics, entertainment, business and so on - we found that false stories spread significantly farther, faster and more broadly than did true ones. Falsehoods were 70 percent more likely to be retweeted, even when controlling for the age of the original tweeter's account, its activity level, the number of its followers and followees, and whether Twitter had verified the account as genuine. These effects were more pronounced for false political stories than for any other type of false news.

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