You don’t have to tell me there are a lot of advice-based articles out there. I’m guilty of writing them.
The thing is, many of us are looking for answers to issues we’re facing at home, at school, at work, and in relationships of all kinds. We crave empathy. We want knowledge. We need answers.
But in an information-heavy world, it can be hard to tell which advice to follow and what articles you can safely ignore. Here are some tips to help you wade through the ocean of helpful (and not-so-helpful) content available.
But first, a story
I recently read an article called How To Finally Start Living On Your Own Terms. Sounds interesting, right? Yep. I clicked. And what I found was a detailed list of 50 (yes, 50!) things I needed to do in order to make this happen.
These “Must Do” items included:
- Give up caffeine
- Buy a juicer
- Go to bed early
- Fast one day a week
- Relax for one hour a day
- Have multiple income streams
- Take cold showers instead of warm
- Listen to audio books and podcasts at twice the speed
- Decide where you’ll be in five years and get there in two
- And most ironically: Have no more than three things on your to do list each day
Plus 40 more things!
I know. I lost you at give up caffeine.
But here’s the thing. This article isn’t really about how to live life on your own terms. It’s about this person’s heartfelt opinion on what that looks like. For him. For me it reads like a hilarious comedy. Or the recipe for a hangry, frazzled meltdown.
So how do you decide which content articles are helpful and which ones are going to leave you feeling empty and unsatisfied? You know, like you’ve just wasted your time— or had a glass of water for lunch.
Here are three quick things to consider when consuming any piece of content:
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.
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.
Ever start reading an article and feel anxious or exhausted by the end of the first paragraph? How about offended? Or suspicious?
Great advice articles can be a bit uncomfortable or overwhelming— especially if they are 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.
Let’s face it. Following 50 steps to living life on someone else’s terms isn’t going to help you face your own fears, solve your own problems, or be your own person.
When it comes right down to it, advice that is intended to be helpful should feel… well… helpful.
And that’s all you really need to know.
Photo by Alexander Pokusay