This election has elicited more emotions, heavier on the fear, disbelief and sadness variety within my circles, than previous elections. In no previous election, has my principal and superintendent felt the need to robocall households and send emails/letters to assure students, staff and families that our schools are safe spaces and issues of bullying, harassment or discomfort should not be expected and should be reported. This is not 2008. This is not 2000.
Scrolling in my Facebook feed, I spotted several stories about the Electoral College in the wake of the disparity between the popular vote and the electoral votes in this 2016 election. It’s human to be caught by videos and images and to afford our attention to those as they go spinning past our swipes of the screen.
One such video, shared on my wall, purported to explain the Electoral College to Americans so we understood why we shouldn’t be lamenting it as antiquated or not representative. Seemed informational. Seemed worthy of my time to consider. Seemed innocuous. I let it play silently for a moment as I paused at the top of my stairs. Mostly, I let it play because I trusted the person who shared it and maybe I would have even shared the video because it was informational. But, I clicked the original poster/creator of the video and knew that this would not be a video that could be fully trusted to be non-biased.
That’s where I think we have begun to fail each other in our social media worlds, which is more and more just our world. When we share something into the world, we are stamping our name in approval to that creator, whether we implicitly or explicitly want to do so. We must examine what’s scrolling past our screens until the systems in place step up to eliminate the false and/or overly slanted information labeled as news. Hopefully, tools like this one will move from Hackathon to real world and help. But, until then, you should always…
PAWS before you Share (Like, <3, Retweet…)
PragerU posted the original video. If you hadn’t heard of them before, a look at their Facebook page, as well as their website, will let you know that they are conservative when it comes to the political spectrum. That’s not a bad thing to be liberal or conservative in your leaning and to share information. In this case, the first couple posts tell me that this is not an organization that I feel good about their online presence.
Everyone has an angle. In the case of PragerU, the angle they support doesn’t align with my angles. A look at their Facebook posts gives me a post about the fascist Grubhub CEO and that young people are only liberal because they have been indoctrinated by “the Left in schools, universities and by the media”. Going even further, a look at their website offering gives me a video series explaining the difference between the Left and the Right in politics with cover stills that lack an unbiased view towards the liberal side of the conversation. You may also be able to use Media Bias/Fact Checking that has categorized popular sites into their political leaning as well as whether it’s a satire site.
When we talk about change or the conversation in our homes, schools and community, we shape that conversation. John Oliver spoke about Facebook in particular in his show on November 13, 2016 and cited Buzzfeed’s research that stated “38 percent of right-leaning news stories and 19 percent of left-leaning news stories on Facebook contained inaccuracies or falsehoods.” We must ask if what we are about to send out into the world is worthy of others’ attention. If you’re thinking that means a lot of time then consider not sharing in the first place. You still have to figure out how to examine the information you are consuming, but at least you won’t have put something out into the ether for others to consume.
The last step in pausing before you share is to consider how you will shape the conversation around you. What will you add to the post: reflection, reaction, additional facts or information to support or extend the topic? This is like the commentary in your paragraph. Of course, sometimes, it’s enough to hit “share” and not add any of your own language to your post. Is there really much we can add to the post letting you know that teachers all get a free burrito on Teacher Appreciation Day at Chipotle?