Recently while browsing on Facebook, I found and enjoyed watching an inspirational animated video that “won an Academy Award for best animated film.” I don’t know the person who shared it (a public post) but I was curious and decided to research before sharing too.
What I found was a blog post by Chuck Sigars (who I also don’t know) detailing how he researched it and found nothing verifying this claim. I couldn’t either. So I didn’t share the video.
Fact vs. Fiction on Social Media
Now I don’t think the person who shared the video was lying, I think she truly believed it won an Oscar. It was visually appealing and had a heartwarming message about kindness. And many people have shared it, all with the claim “won an Academy Award.” But did it really?
I didn’t share the video because I don’t want to perpetuate what to me and others has become a serious problem on social media-creating, promoting, and/or sharing false information.
The paradox of living in this era is that as easy as it is to spread fiction, it’s almost as easy to disprove it.Chuck Sigars
The other “pandemic”
“Fake news” has been an issue with social media use, but in 2020 it seems to have become another sort of pandemic with inaccurate, misleading, and false posts about coronavirus, lockdowns, public health, the presidential election, riots, protests, racism, etc. Due to the popularity and widespread use of social media sites and personal blogs we have all become “influencers”, like it or not.
The professional media is often criticized for biased reporting, but we social users are not without fault. We should act as responsibly as we expect them to.
I don’t mean we shouldn’t share opinions or feelings about valid information. Nor am I suggesting we should stifle creative thinking or alternate conclusions drawn from established facts. And by no means am I promoting censorship of unpopular ideas or trampling our Constitutional right to free speech. (Amendment 1).
I am talking about responsible use of media, especially social media. (I am mainly addressing Facebook use because I use it the most. But I think these principles apply to the other sites.) Separating valid news reports from opinion, satire, advertising, press releases, and advocacy promotion is hard when friends are sharing them as facts or even “the truth”.
9 possible solutions
I suggest 9 strategies to help us post responsibly and productively. I created these from my own thoughts, observations of posts both good and bad, and from ideas on other blogs and websites.
I’m using genuine examples from posts that I have seen but altered them enough to preserve others’ privacy. I don’t want to shame or embarrass anyone, but I do want to raise awareness so we can all make social media more honest and valuable. I need to observe these as much as anyone, and I hope you and my social media friends and followers will hold me accountable too.
1. Post with purpose
Have a purpose when you share. Is it to inform, entertain, amuse, educate, challenge, ventilate, express opinion? If you don’t know, the reader may not know either. The content should match the purpose.
2. Express yourself
Your friends are more interested in what you think than what “a friend of a friend” thinks. Express yourself in your own words, give examples, tell a story, rather than “copied and pasted” or “stole this from a friend”.
I found a handy image meme thing that uses fancy words, giving it the appearance that it uses science to defend my opinion position on a topic… I’m going to post it and use it as my argument to be my voicea friend’s satirical post
3. Consider the source
Choose your sources wisely when sharing. Blogger Shannon Coleman (ofthe hearth.com) writes
You may love and trust your friends and family members, but it is time to ask some tough questions in regards to what they share.
If you don’t know the author ,check them out; go to their profile and see how they present themselves. Is this someone you want to be identified with?
4. Confirm the facts-who, when, where
Facts -names, dates, places- can and should be verified. Check it out. If you can’t find it somewhere else on the internet by a reliable source, you should question the accuracy.
Copied & pasted, also not sure how accurate the numbers are, haven’t had time to research and the news started coverage but still good food for thought:a friend’s post for real
5. Tell us what and why
Why are you sharing this post? Cartoons or cat videos probably don’t need explanation, but narratives do. Tell us why this piece is share-worthy. Did you learn something from it? Do you find it inspiring or motivating? Did it anger you? If I read it, what benefit can I expect?
Maintain a healthy dose of skepticism. Don’t believe everything you see, read, or hear, even when it corroborates what you already believe. As a child, I was taught to “play Devil’s advocate” and look at the opposite side of my own argument. I think that ability can serve well in these times.a wise friend
6. Share videos with value
Respect your friends’ valuable time. Inviting them to devote precious minutes to a video that “you have to watch before it’s taken down” is a good way to lose friends if it doesn’t measure up.
Many videos have a caption that introduces the content. If it doesn’t then you should compose a succinct paragraph so they’ll know what they’re missing if they choose to pass. (and of course you’ve already done the above source and fact checking before you shared it.)
Here’s how I introduced a video of an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci about COVID-19.
“Dr. Fauci discusses the “easy six” ways to control the pandemic.”Dr. Aletha
7. Report numbers and statistics accurately
Numbers should illustrate a story, not be the story. Statistics need context and interpretation. The more complex the math, the more commentary is needed to draw any valid conclusions. Most of us didn’t take enough advanced math courses in school to draw valid conclusions. When someone posts a chart with percentages and calls it “perspective”, be cautious.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, relying on false statistics can have serious consequences if people use them to make health decisions. An incident with statistics incorrectly attributed to the Alabama Public Health Department illustrates the potential problem.
“It’s certainly not our chart or something we’d put out, It’s similar to charts we’ve seen around for the last five months. It has updated numbers. We’ve seen a lot of people cherry-picking the stats that prove whatever point they want to make. You just hope people realize that there’s a bigger picture.”Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris
8. Pause before sharing photos
A photo can tell a story without words; but just like with words, that story can be false. A photo can be fact-checked, by finding the original source and whether it’s been edited or manipulated. Here’s where you can do that.
9. Share facts not fear
People use fear to motivate and manipulate. Using phrases like “they don’t want you to see this”, “share before they remove it ”, and words like racist, fascist, communist, conspiracy, censored, socialist, control, right, left, etc. imply an urgency that usually isn’t realistic or rational. Sharing verifiable information allows your friends to draw their own conclusions based on fact not fear.
In an article about the proliferation and promulgation of conspiracy theories, Andrew McDonald of Christianity today wrote
conspiracy theories play upon our fear by supplying a more powerful emotion: rage. Fear can so quickly morph into anger because it provides an object: they are to blame, they caused this, they deserve retribution.Andrew MacDonald
In summary, THINK before you post or share
Words have power, so it matters how we use them. If we make a mistake and share something false, misleading, or inaccurate, then we should correct it. If warranted, delete it, and explain why.
- Is it TRUTHFUL?
- Is it HELPFUL?
- Is it INSPIRING?
- Is it NECESSARY?
- Is it KIND?
If you’re interested in a Christian viewpoint on social media use, consider this book by Daniel Darling, an author and pastor. (this is an affiliate link)
Daniel Darling believes we need an approach that applies biblical wisdom to our engagement with social media, an approach that neither retreats from modern technology nor ignores the harmful ways in which Christians often engage publicly.
And in case you’d like to watch it, here is the video that prompted this post, The Ticket Without a Seat– and I still don’t know if it won an Academy Award, but I doubt it. Let me know if you find out otherwise-using the above suggestions, of course.
exploring the HEART of responsible social media use
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Please share this post on your social media sites so together we can make the social world safer, friendlier, and trustworthy. Thanks.