In the past few months – and especially the past few days – there has been a surplus of fake photos, articles and quotes flying around social media. The reason they have moved so quickly is largely because well-intentioned people with no desire to spread misinformation are falling for fake information.
If you’re interested in inciting heated debates or spreading content – true or false – that supports your message, this article isn’t for you. If you’re thinking, “But the bad people are doing it, so if I don’t do it, too, they will win…” you might be right, but this article still isn’t for you.
However, if you’re tired of misinformation and want to make the personal choice to only share credible content, keep reading. If you’ve been fooled – maybe even called out on social media for sharing false information – and you don’t know what to do, keep reading. If you’re looking for ways to help your friends and family have productive conversations, please keep reading!
What should I do if I post content that I later learn is fake?
Not to kick things off with an incredibly obvious response, but if you share something you think is true and later learn it isn’t, you have the option to delete it. I can hear you already saying, “But once you put something on the internet, it’s there forever! That’s what we tell our kids!” While that’s true to a certain degree, it’s unlikely that anyone captured a screenshot of your mistake or shared it as a way to call you out. If you made a mistake, delete it and prevent the misinformation from spreading.
One additional suggestion: Thank the person who corrected you. It might be painful, but it will likely be worth it. And remember that – just because you agree that they were right about your post, doesn’t mean they’ve changed your mind. This one simple action is an opportunity to demonstrate that you – still strong in your belief – honor accurate information above all else and won’t sink to lies and manipulation to win an argument.
How do I avoid being duped?
I’ve posted fake content – and was even called out by one of my snootiest followers. (Ouch!) It happens. As more and more trolls and even well-intentioned people employ dishonest techniques, the more chances there are for you to fall for someone’s lie. Here are a few simple tips to improve your odds.
- 1.Slow down. I see people posting so much content in short windows of time, I know they could not possibly have verified the content – or even read it. If you’re feeling frustrated and compelled to act, don’t take down your digital presence with an avalanche of questionable content. Find another way of coping with your emotions and when you return to your platforms, take the time to actually read what you’re sharing before you post it.
- 2.Listen to your gut. It’s becoming less and less common for people to think “That can’t possibly be true.” But that voice is still there. Listen to it! If your gut is telling you this might be a lie – or at least exaggerated – investigate.
- 3.Check the source. I don’t mean verify who shared it with you…I mean check the original source. Even your mom, pastor and best friend can be fooled. Break the chain by doing your own research. Who generated the information and are they credible?
- 4.Check the story. My friend and fellow writer Nadia Giordana provided me with a handy list of fact checking websites. With very little effort, you can look up your story on any of these sites and you’ll likely get a quick answer from someone who has already done the investigative work.
- 5.Don’t post it. Can’t confirm the story? Still unsure if it’s true or not? Err on the side of caution and don’t post it.
- 6.Talk about misinformation with your friends and family. Find the people you trust – they don’t have to agree with you, they just have to be able to have a civilized conversation – and talk about what you’re seeing and hearing. Ask how they’re making sense of everything. You might learn from them or give them some coping mechanisms of their own.
- 7.Be kind to yourself. If you’ve been fooled, learn from it, forgive yourself and move on. Going on a rant or disappearing in a dramatic fashion from social media isn’t going to help your reputation as a reliable person.
No matter what message you’re promoting, sharing false information only hurts your reputation. It provides others with an opportunity to say, “There’s that <fill in affiliation here>. She’s just like the rest of them – misinformed, irrational and spreading crazy lies.” Don’t give them any ammunition! Support your message by educating yourself.
Dr. Amy Jauman is the Chief Education Officer and Owner of Remotely Smart, a virtual company that provides professional development support to remote and traditional organizations. She is a Certified Social Media Strategist and Instructor with the National Institute for Social Media. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.