WAIT! Before You Hit That Share Button…
Y’all, we’ve been seeing a lot of irresponsible sharing on social media accounts lately, and it's time for an intervention.
Imagine this: It’s morning, you’ve just sat down with your caffeinated beverage, and you’re scrolling through your social media platform of choice. There’s the latest news about the USA doing something foolish (again), your momma’s cousin’s daughter just had her baby so pictures abound, there’s a funny comic that’s #relatable, and then there’s a meme that someone you went to high school with shared of a poorly clipped-out Emma Gonzalez floating on a black background, surrounded with text:
“I BULLIED… My classmates and I Bullied the High School Weirdo for THREE YEARS. One day he snapped, and shot-up my school. BUT LET’S BLAME GUNS.”
You pause. This unsettles you, especially the number of likes/shares/retweets.
But first, you check yourself. You wonder if you’re unsettled because this disagrees with your worldview. Then you shake your head—no, there is definitely something wrong with this, and it’s not the bad Photoshop job.
Sighing, you take a swig of caffeine, open up a tab, and go to work on educating people.
This scenario is probably something we have all dealt with. It’s easy to see information that we disagree with and run to a search engine to refute it. However, what happens when we see something we agree with?
We ask you, our readers: When you see a meme or infographic and you find you agree with the information presented, do you share it right away? Or do you run over to your friend Google to find out if what you’re about to share is something factual?
If you thought to yourself, “Huh, I never run over to my BFF Google,” then, my friend, I would like to ask you:
“I never really thought about it.”
Our response: That’s okay! Hopefully after reading this little piece here, you’ll start!
“But I don’t have the time to fact-check!”
Our response: Then don’t spread potentially false information and move away from the Share button.
“I can’t find anything that supports my meme!”
Our response: Consider that, if you can’t find anything that agrees with your meme-thing, then maybe it actually isn’t true.
“I really don’t care if what I’m sharing is factual or not.”
Our response: I didn’t realize Cheetos could speak.
Now, we’re not saying everyone needs to be educated on everything all of the time. This is not a leftist piece, because that is exclusionary and we are so not about that. We’re also not saying that you need to be hypervigilant 24/7, as that is a ridiculous expectation to place on anyone.
What we are talking about is how important it is, especially in today’s political climate, to spread information that isn’t based in bias and to be responsible for our actions. We know how validating it can be to share an infographic about something you are passionate about and having others like it or share it or retweet it, but we have to make sure that information is verifiable! Otherwise, we’re no better than the politicians who don’t believe in science or facts or responsible journalism.
And we don’t want to be like that.
We leave you now with a brief guide on how to check yourself before you wreck yourself.
WHAT IS A REPUTABLE NEWS SOURCE? You know these. New York Times. National Geographic. BBC. Washington Post. Al Jazeera. ABC. CNBC. These are some of the main, tried-and-true news sources that have actual journalists doing the reporting. They have teams of researchers. Now, that doesn’t mean these are unbiased. What this means is they aren’t randos in a sketchy basement writing conspiracy theories about Hillary being a lizard in a human suit.
CHECK MORE THAN ONE SOURCE. We have a personal rule that we call a “2 for 2” fact-check guide. We always look up two news sources that are typically liberal-leaning and then two that are conservative-leaning. Now, some people do this because they are moderates. Others do it because they “just want both sides of the story.” This writer's flaming liberal self does this because facts are facts no matter what way you try to lean them, and if someone argues with you on your own post and they lean a certain political direction, you can meet them (and then destroy them).
ACADEMIC SOURCES ARE EVEN BETTER. Academic sources are usually books, journals from professional fields (like psychology journals,) and data that has been approved by academic institutions (like colleges or professional associations). If it says .edu, .org, or clearly says Harvard University Press or similar, you’re good fam. However—proceed with caution, and know your audience. If you’re sharing something that’s directed at your great-uncle-Joseph who only received a 3rd grade education and believes all women should be barefoot and pregnant, maybe hold off on the Judith Butler pieces you want to throw his way.
WHAT IS A BAD SOURCE? We've all had someone try to internet-argue using an opinion piece by a nobody on a WordPress blog as their “source”. Think pieces like this are easy to avoid, but sometimes there are websites that look legit but are actually flaming piles of trash. AmericanNews.com, ConsciousLifeNews.com, and BipartisanReport.com are just a few examples of titles that seem valid (if you squint,) but these are NOT valid news sources. They might agree with your sentiments, but nah man, no one is going to take you seriously.