Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Thirty Second Media Check

Please. We need to take 30 seconds before sharing something on social media. Particularly when it’s political. Why? Because if you don’t, you’re playing into your opponent’s hands. Doesn’t matter whether you oppose white supremacists, or precious snowflakes, if you don’t take the 30 seconds, there’s a good chance people will start to write you off as someone pushing an agenda. Because in a sense, you are; you’ve shared something without pausing to think. Consider these three steps, before you share, please.

(1) Check Responses

Especially for twitter. It takes all of TWO seconds to click a tweet, and see what others have replied. Case in point, there was a tweet that kept popping up in my feed all this past weekend, saying “Mike Pence deleted a 2015 tweet” (about banning Muslims being unconstitutional), with said tweet embedded. Let's RT for hypocrisy! One problem. Pence never deleted that tweet.

Literally EVERY response underneath that original “he deleted this” said something along the lines of “no he didn’t”, “that tweet’s still there”, “please fact check” - most of those responses from liberals - and yet it had thousands and thousands of RTs. (I just did a search. Can’t find the original, thank god, but did find DOZENS of other “crusaders” now asking for the RT in the same way, some with over 1,000 RTs.)

This is fake news, people. Took me TWO seconds to check that. And not much longer to verify that the commenters (not the original tweeter) were correct. Presumably it was an honest mistake, but fakery like this shouldn’t go viral. Attack hypocrisy for what it is, not what you believe it to be, or you undermine your argument.

Bear in mind: I’m not saying wade into an internet comments section (those are terrible). But taking maybe ten seconds to scan what’s been said allows you to see not only if someone has debunked it, but what people on your side of the argument consider the key points (and/or what people on the other side are the most upset about). Possibly it’s a word choice that you can exploit/avoid.

If no one has said anything, be suspicious. Maybe take longer than ten seconds.

(2) Check the Source

I don’t mean make sure the source is reputable (one hopes that goes without saying), I mean make sure you’re not amplifying your own echo chamber.

If you are a liberal, I doubt you trust anything coming out of “Fox News”. Similarly, if you’re conservative, you’re probably suspicious of the “Daily Kos”. Know what? They’re probably not the only organizations reporting on the issue you’re reading about. Maybe there’s a better (unbiased?) article out there.

So do a quick internet search using key words. It’ll take maybe five more seconds, then add fifteen for following a couple links. Then, consider sharing an article from a less “partisan” organization instead. Better yet, consider an international news organization, assuming their reporting is good. Otherwise, all you’re doing is telling people who are ALREADY on your side about “what Fox News said today”.

The same goes for random bashing of news articles. Instead of saying “look what liars these people are”, share what CBC/BBC/etc are legitimately saying about the issue instead. Because if you use logic against something, you give it a voice, you strengthen it. (Saying “Trump said this, here’s why it’s wrong” - no, people only hear the first part, what Trump said.) Don’t give the media organizations you hate a voice through your disgust.

If you must blow off steam, share your disgust with people at a rally. Or with your friends through email. Or on a private Facebook group. Or forum. Or somewhere else that others won’t start to tune you out/unfollow/ignore because of your “agenda”. Because the more partisan this gets, the worse the situation gets. If you’re not sure what people think about various US news organizations, here’s a graphic (from 2014, I haven’t spotted an updated one).

If you can’t find anyone else reporting your story, or less partisan sites are reporting it in some other way, be suspicious.

(3) Pick Your Battles

This last tip is Teaching 101. If you’ve got six or seven alarms all going off at once, you need to decide which thing is the most urgent, or you risk losing everything. The student about to flip their desk? Necessarily takes priority over the quiet person in the corner, or the chatty students in the back.

It’s a fine line here. Calling out the Trump Administration on their lies is akin to spitting into the wind, and yet I feel it does have to be said; it needs to be on record. Mocking Sean Spicer for retweeting “The Onion” unsatirically is probably best saved for private conversations; there’s more critical things to be shouting about. Mocking Trump for a “fear of stairs” is the stupidest thing I’ve found myself fact checking lately.

So, before you share on social media, ask yourself - is this a worthy cause? Something your friends/followers truly need to know? Tip: If it’s a personal attack against someone, people probably don’t need to know. Shaming individual Trump supporters won’t work any more than shaming Trump himself did. Claiming that a liberal who didn’t protest six months ago is a hypocrite for doing so now gets you nowhere.

The other caveat here is that I do have that “male white privilege” on my side, and can afford to pick my battles rather more than someone whose very existence is coming under threat. In fact, odds are good that those are the voices that need to be amplified. The voices of the 5-year old boy detained at a US airport, or this 7-year resident stuck in Dubai, or all these broken families, or military translators whose families may be targeted for assassination.

These things are, in my mind, more critical than your latest hypothesis about who was behind the attack in Quebec on Sunday. Which in a way, goes back to considering the source. (Has there even been time to investigate?)


Checking an article/tweet’s responses takes 10 seconds or less, searching for supporting evidence takes maybe 20 seconds with a search engine (including checking links), and finally, as you’re reaching for “Share”, decide if alienating the opposition is really something you want to risk. Maybe it is; maybe the others in your feed aren’t going to change their opinion regardless of what you share, maybe we’re in desperate need of a smile, or maybe you want the echo chamber.

But here’s the thing. If you decide that people “in the establishment” aren’t providing you with valid information, that you know more than “the professionals” out there, and that you are going to turn to someone who isn’t “part of the conspiracy”? That’s largely how Trump got into power in the first place. People wanted someone from the outside. It’s likely how he’s going to maintain power, by guiding the messaging.

So let's take the thirty seconds? Whether it’s political or not? Alternatively, explain to me why I’m way off base here. I admit my own sanity is at stake; it bothers me, how blindly (mis)information and items of little consequence are being shared of late.

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