On the Importance of Dates

Imagine this (all too common) scenario:

Al: “Hey, Betty, your website looks great!”

Betty: “Thanks, Al. If only I had time to write more blog posts. My last one is from a few months ago.”

Al: “Why don’t you just remove the dates? Then no one would ever know how old they are.”

Betty: “Hm. That could solve this problem, but my gut tells me that’s not a good idea.”

Betty’s instincts are right on. In this era of fake news, dating your blog posts could not be more important. Context matters, and the first thing I do when I read anything on the internet is to find the date. Articles, tweets, or posts that were true at the time they were published being recirculated via social media can be just as misleading as fabricated stories.

I recently stumbled upon an older article in The Guardian and noticed that not only do they date their posts but they go out of their way to explicitly state how old they are. The following screen capture shows how they do this; this article is “1 month old.” You don’t have to do the math—The Guardian does it for you, which reinforces how important it is to know the source and pub date of everything you read online before you read it and start unconsciously forming opinions about it.

The Guardian explicitly reveals the age of articles on its website.

The Guardian explicitly reveals the age of articles on its website.

Some web gurus advise you not to blog at all if you can’t blog regularly, but Betty is right to question Al’s advice. It’s possible that visitors to her site might get the impression that she’s slacking off because her blog isn’t updated. But I argue that visitors might get an even worse impression if they found a blog full of posts that aren’t dated at all. That could lead to something worse than a bit of judgment for perceived blog neglect; it could lead to disorientation and mistrust.

We are seeing more than ever how much words matter in the fight to seek and protect truth and justice. Words provide context and boundaries. Dates do as well, too.