This post is part of a current Tiger Print series about Social Media and its benefits.

I’ve often heard people complain about the large amounts of false information that is disseminated thanks to the internet and social media. And while it is true there isn’t much fact checking that happens when things happen in real-time; the great thing about the internet today is the easy access everyone has to the original documents. We don’t have to take the information that someone else is summarizing for us, we can go a search and find the original documents ourselves.

Recently, I realized this is particularly important as statistics can easily be skewed according to the side a person takes. And if we only go by soundbites we are likely to be getting only one portion of the whole.

For example, a few weeks ago President Obama mentioned that according to a recent study 98% of Catholic women use birth control and are therefore not living the Catholic Church’s teaching on the matter. It was his proof that birth control should be part of the new healthcare plan. When that hit the airwaves I know many good people who panicked. This was not a good thing. 98% was a staggering number and taken at face value is was disheartening.

I got into a discussion about this with a friend who wondered if we were the lone 2% of Catholic women who weren’t on the pill. I told her before we panic and think we are loners we need to read the study, NOT the reports. And that is where dawning came. The study only looked at women between the ages of 15-44 who identified their religion as Catholic. To further tweak the number the study excluded all women who were not sexually active (meaning those who haven’t had sexual intercourse in the last 3 months), as well as those who just had a baby, were pregnant and were trying to get pregnant. Well, when you take that into account of course the number is going to be high. My friend and I were both non-entities to this study.

Without the internet, our attempts to read and decipher the truth of this situation would have been a long and difficult process – one that would have probably been disheartening. And by the time we had wrangled out the truth of the matter, the issue would be such old news conversations with others would have been awkward and forced. As it was, a simple Google search led us to the truth through the actual report and therefore filled us with fodder to discuss this issue rationally and intellectually with friends.

Now whenever I hear a quote being analyzed or a study cited I immediately go to the original source. I’d rather create my own opinions in an informed way instead of taking the summary another person put together. Plus going to the source and sharing it with others is the best way I’ve found to articulately argue a point or share an opinion.

Katie Hinderer

Katie Hinderer is a freelance writer and social media enthusiast. She holds a degree in Journalism from Marquette University. Over the years she has transitioned from traditional publishing...