By Edmond Lee, Communications

Thanks to the Internet and social media, we can keep up with what’s happening in the world in an instant. Whether it’s the war in Syria, a terrorist attack or any number of world events, social issues or calamities, you can find what you need to know within seconds. This has led to an unprecedented level of awareness and activism. People don’t just know what’s going on; they’re getting involved in advocacy and social justice – online and even in the streets.

But how much awareness is too much?

The pace of news has gone from fast to frenetic. As soon as one issue is trending, it’s replaced by another. We hear about multiple events in real time; sometimes our attention spreads thin. It’s not uncommon for even ardent social activists to “burn out” or be overwhelmed. It’s impossible to care about everything.

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At World Vision, we encourage our sponsors, donors and advocates to care and reach out to children and communities living in poverty. But the last thing we want is for you to care to the point of total exhaustion.

Here’s how to be an engaged global citizen who takes control:

1. Pick your issues.
As we said, it’s impossible to care equally for every single issue. So, consider what you are most passionate about. Do you care deeply about education for poor children? Are you concerned about refugees? Do you want to end hunger? Pick a few issues closest to your heart and focus on them instead of spreading yourself thin.

And remember, just because someone isn’t actively supporting your cause doesn’t mean they don’t know or care!

2. Watch out for fake news!
The Internet can be a wonderful source of news. But remember that anyone can publish or say anything they want, including blatant lies. When you read a story from a source you don’t know, check other sources to make sure the story is accurate. If a story is developing, wait for more details before drawing conclusions. Try to stick to trusted, well-known sources, but also remember that everyone makes mistakes. Watch out for corrections.

People on social media often skew news stories to fit their agendas and validate their own opinions. If someone posts a controversial headline, video or snippet from an article, track down the original source and get the full context. Most of all, remember that it’s OK not to react immediately. Pause and check before you act. Haste can make you wrong.

Here are some other tips for consuming news:
• Don’t trust anonymous sources or stories that cite other news organisations as a source of information.
• Pay attention to the language used by the media. For example, ‘We are waiting for confirmation’ means that they don’t have it.
• Watch out for fake or Photoshopped images.

3. Learn to filter the voices you hear.
The Internet gives everyone a voice, but not everyone uses that voice wisely. Unfortunately, many go on the web and social media to speak cruelly or thoughtlessly, espouse dangerous viewpoints such as violent racism, or amuse themselves by behaving in ways they know will get a negative reaction from people (also known as ‘trolling’).

It’s good to hear different perspectives, but be mindful of points of view that misrepresent reality and cause harm. If you’re on social media, use your blocking or muting functions judiciously when dealing with toxic or unreasonable people. It is possible to change hearts and minds, but if an interaction is going nowhere, learn to move on.

4. Get off the Internet once in a while.
On the Internet – and social media in particular – the bad that happens in the world can often be amplified, exaggerated and distorted by thousands of voices weighing in. So take a moment and step away. Get outside. Take a walk. Do something you enjoy. Have a nap.

Above all, take a moment to remember that the world can be an awful, dangerous place, but it is also filled with incredible beauty and good. Savour it.