“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet” – Abraham Lincoln. I came across this humorous “quote” on a social media site recently, and while obviously not legitimate, it serves as a wonderful reminder of the importance that a few moments of research can hold.

Why does fact-checking matter? It can literally change the world. Both formal and social media have significant influence on our perceptions of those around us, their beliefs, even their appearance.

Negative media can incite violence toward an entire race of people, turning even lifetime friends against each other. It can determine the outcome of elections, a phenomenon which affects us all in countless ways. It is my hope to remind us how relevant the truth is, no matter which side of an issue you are on.

Multiple reputable websites and articles offer helpful tips on how to separate fiction from reality when browsing headlines. A few simple tips: Ask for evidence of a claim; pay close attention to the source.

Why should we take the time to ensure the statements we relay are factually based? Let’s face it – everyone likes to be right, and no one likes to be proven a fool. At the very least, one can use these tips to impress friends and colleagues with an intelligent, well-informed discussion. On a larger scale, we can use them to make all-around better decisions, both as individuals and as a nation.

There is power in knowledge, enough to change the world. Own it. Because while it is perfectly acceptable to be ignorant, it is not OK to stay that way.

Carrie Merrill