These days, it seems like everyone is swimming in content. Every time you log in, check email, or go online, there is a pile of “helpful” advice articles waiting for you. They clog your inbox, your social feed, and some days, your brain.
But it isn’t all bad. In fact, many of us are on the lookout for strategies and solutions to help with issues we’re facing at home, at work, and in relationships. We crave empathy. We want knowledge. We need answers.
The problem lies in our information overload. When we are constantly bombarded with content, it can be difficult to determine what advice is worth reading and which articles can be safely ignored.
Sifting through the pile
So how do you decide which content articles are helpful and which ones are going to leave you feeling empty and unsatisfied?
Here are three quick things to consider when consuming any piece of content:
1.) What’s the source?
Where is this information coming from? A reputable publication? A business blog? A random discussion thread? All three can be great sources of advice, depending on the topic.
Just keep an eye out for opinions that aren’t backed up by actual experience or facts. If an article contains references to research, does it also include links to statistics, reports, and/or related articles?
If it reads like a personal opinion piece, chances are it’s just that. If it sounds like a commercial for a product or service, it probably is. If it seems like it has an agenda, you can bet money it does. These are the kinds of articles you can pass on more easily.
If you’re looking to solve a specific problem, think about who would be a good source to provide the answers you are looking for. When your Google results come up, sort accordingly.
2.) Is it relevant?
How old is this article, research paper, eBook, video, or blog post? Does it apply to your current needs and situation? Was it created by someone with personal knowledge and authority?
First off, check the date. Some content is timeless, but a “Tech Trends in Human Resources” article that’s 10 years old isn’t going to do you much good.
Next, look at the publication and author. Do these things make sense based on the information you are looking for? If you’re on LinkedIn, do a quick profile check. Does this person’s experience back up what they are saying? If you’re reading an article called “What Millennials Want” and it’s clearly written by a Baby Boomer, take it with a grain of salt. Or not, depending on whose perspective you’re looking for.
They key here is credibility. Credible sources provide credible information. Do a little homework. If something seems off, it probably is.
3. What’s the tone?
Have you ever started reading an article and felt anxious or exhausted by the end of the first paragraph? How about offended? Or suspicious?
Quality advice articles can sometimes be uncomfortable or overwhelming— especially if they’re taking on difficult topics or exposing hidden truths. But if the tone of the content is heavy handed, self-righteous, or insulting, feel free to toss it aside. Life’s too short to spend it listening to people who don’t have your best interests at heart.
When it comes down to it, advice that is intended to be helpful should feel… well… helpful.
And that’s all you really need to know.