Social Media PSA

Hey, you! Tired, disheveled mom, dad, teacher, grandmother, grandfather, brother, sister, aunt, uncle. I see you. I see you read an article posted on Facebook and just know the author was talking about you (OMG this article has the exact same Lisa Frank trapper keeper that I had in 1993!! I should share this so I always have it and my friends can see too!!) You post your baby’s first pictures on this platform, to share your joy with friends and family. You witness heartbreaking posts from grieving parents, children and friends. You will often comment about how sorry you are to hear about a passing and genuinely feel shock or pain. Or worse, you’ve shared a grieving post, expressing your anguish and heartache with the world online. Maybe you felt like you had no choice but to share it online, as once one person found out, they would post their own memories and feelings about your loved one, limiting your own control over who knows what, and when they know it. Facebook is a complicated place sometimes.

I still see you. Sitting there behind your phone screen. I see you post happy birthday to your friends. And then share another one about politics that shares your same view points. Maybe you share one about religion. The stories and articles you read make sense. The words ooze with truth and familiarity for you. Some friends may not like it, but they share things you find outrageous, so why shouldn’t you post it- it’s your page! It’s your opinion.

Some of the hard truth about articles shared on Facebook is you have little to no knowledge about who wrote it and where it comes from. Anyone with a device (phone or computer) can create content for the web. The content isn’t held to any standard of truth, or checked for facts before it’s shared over and over again. We think, “Wow, everyone should see this!” And then we feel the pushback from others who disagree. And we are able to write back, using our own words, to interpret what we see, what we think.

With all of these explanations and written assault on each other, we don’t take the time to look at who wrote the piece, or why the wrote a piece. Most of the time, the most extreme content is paid content. That’s right- someone without a care for either “side” probably wrote that article you think is awesome. The writer is probably someone looking for a quick buck, someone who has been hired by a company who would benefit from you thinking a certain way. An easy way to vet real journalists is to google them. Google their name and look for their professional profiles. Look for other pieces of published work as well. If only one website pops up, and nothing else, odds are this person is not a real writer. They don’t have any kind of ethics training, and aren’t aware of the first rule of journalism: a dedication to the TRUTH.

Facebook, even though they may seem harmless (see examples above), have perpetuated the dissemination of inaccurate information. Even if they didn’t/don’t mean to, they have. And they’ve sold our personal information to those who would benefit from knowing what we read, enjoy, and post.

I deleted my Facebook app last year, after I received a notice from the company that my information had been compromised. It wasn’t anything that I had shared or done, it was a friend of mine (I still have no idea who, but it doesn’t really matter who). A “friend” had allowed their information to be shared, including friends details. That’s all it took. My information had been sold off, my privacy violated. Those pictures of my kids that I had felt so proud to post now susceptible to the eyes of a stranger somewhere in the world. Those posts I shared analyzed and used to target my political and religious beliefs. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have shared some of my information willingly, but it’s the fact that I thought I was protected against it that really hit me.

I’m not naive enough to say that I don’t ever use social media, because that’s simply not true. I looove seeing my family and friends in Ireland, PA and Oregon!! Social media is important. It’s easy to disseminate information and news, especially on a local level, and it gives a voice to those who feel like no one is listening. And this comes with a responsibility. We need to call out the inaccuracies when we see them. We need to call those who reach out for help when we see them. And we need to treat each other with the same amount of respect as we do in our face to face interactions.