Last night a friend from High School posted about some spices she had bought. Since I love to cook, I checked out the site she recommended. The site is something I wouldn’t have found on my own, and it a site I will absolutely be patronizing. The spices are in bulk, they are inexpensive, they have a money-back guarantee, and they are free to ship. Social Media win: You like this site, I trust your opinion, I check it out, decide for myself, everybody enjoys deliciously spiced food.
Another example of social media working well: This week I had a video to take out of a website for a sermon. I tried to do it myself, I googled some instructions. I followed the instructions. I failed. I posted it and asked for help, and within an hour, one of my former youth group kids (who is now not a Jr. High kid who likes Ruby Red Mountain Dew, but rather an adult living and working and changing the world in Silicon Valley, I believe — man I’m old) picked it up, converted it and sent it back to me. Social Media Win.
The above two examples represent my overall experience with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linked-In, etc. Overall, they have brought me around to people I may have not stayed in touch with and have expanded my network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in ways that make life better, and happier.
But to every yin there is a yang, no? In addition to being a place where everyone’s words live on forever, Social Media is teeming with misinformation that is more easily accepted by me (and others) because it is shared by our “friends.” To be clear: I, on a daily basis, have to be on guard to make sure I remember this. For example, this morning, an acquaintance posted a link to a picture with a caption about a [political figure] who allegedly made a [political statement] about a [political issue] (shocker!) There were dozens of likes and a robust debate in the comment section. I was about to weigh in on the debate, but I did what I often do: I googled the story to get more information about what this real person allegedly said. Turns out it was absolutely false. A total lie. Not just an opinion I disagreed with, the person never actually said that anywhere in recorded history. I almost wasted time on a debate about, essentially, a fairytale.
So, call it a personal soapbox, a public service, or anything else you like, I’m going to close with 6 handy dandy tips for responsible social media use.
- Remember that as a social media user, the things you post have influence on your friends. If you’re going to be the originator of a post, do a little background on it first. Some things to look for: When was this written? Who created this content? Is this an urban legend? (For Urban Legends, check out www.snopes.com )
- Be wary of “stories” that are listed as really long captions under pictures (as opposed to links to actual news stories). They are almost always exaggerations of actual events and stories.
- Google. Google, my friends. It takes less than one minute to do a google search on a story you suspect might not be true.
- Don’t hurry to be the first to share. Often the dust has to settle before the global community can fact check something, see if it’s true. How often, in large and small matters do we find that there is a huge social media share-fest of misinformation that everyone has to come back and retract. Just… sit on it a minute.
- Gently call out misleading information. I like to link to a reputable source (I often use snopes.com) that gives more information.
- Block / remove contacts who repeatedly share misleading or untrue information.
Certainly there is much more we could talk about on this topic, eh? I’ll sign off for now. What do you think?
For further reading: What You Don’t Know About Your Digital Legacy (Thanks to Matt Brennan for linking to this article.)