Social media can be used for so much good but it can also be used to lie, hate, and spread divisive rhetoric. To use social media for a positive impact you have to be a discerning user. We all have to start taking more responsibility for what we post and to take the time to see if the content is factual. If you post false information you are being part of the problem not part of the cure. In a world where all the knowledge of mankind is in the palm of your hand, shouldn't you at least be responsible enough to check if the information and articles you share on social media are true?
We have all been trained to crave the dopamine hit you get when someone gives you a 'like' on something you post. We are so trained to seek out the sign of approval from our peers that a majority of the time we share based on the headline without even reading the article. The more righteous it makes 'our side' sound the quicker we are to share without a thought. Add in some name-calling, and this article that proves your point will really stick it to those 'other' people...
But it is just one funny image so why does it matter?
Because you are spreading propaganda and your loved ones deserve better.
Consider this fake news meme below featuring Jerry Jones (A meme is an image or short video shared on social media that usually includes text that states an opinion and/or humor. They can be created by anyone and are not factual unless linked to more credible information). Three of my friends shared this below meme of Jerry Jones and more than a dozen liked it. Meaning all these people believe it to be true, find it worthy of interacting with, and have decided it is important enough for me to see. These are people I know and trust. Not big media. Not Russian spies. People I actually know. This meme is FALSE.
Now here is the real problem. Look at the overall number of people who liked it and shared the original meme. THAT many people didn't bother to use their phone... in their hand... to check if it is true!?!? WTF America.
But who cares right? Consider these two memes. I picked a meme I created because I have access to actual data and we can see it side by side with the other's to show as a comparison.
What you don't know is your one share/like acts as an accelerant on a fire. You aren't adding one like or one share. You are multiplying the fake new's reach. Think about it like an avalanche. You may have started the tiny ball rolling. Your like/share has told Facebook that it was important and they took your word for it and showed it to more people. The quicker something spreads and is interacted with, the higher the edgeranking. It multiplies the impact. Each like and share isn't an addition. It is a multiplication. Facebook algorithms are set up to create virality out of content the users find interesting. By sharing and liking fake news you are telling facebook to share it with more and more people. Look at my original post and the reach it had:
Now look again at how many people interacted with this fake news meme:
And here is the really scary part. The fake news article won't end up on mainstream news. Because it is fake. It will end up on unethical news sources and fake news sources. So this compels people to say that the 'real stories' aren't being shown on the mainstream news. People then trust this bogus news site and they keep sharing their information and feeding their own bias with information that isn't true.
For all the complaining we do about 'fake news,' we are the ones who are creating the problem. The 'fake news' (everyone and their president complains about) does not come from the media outlets that cover the White House press conferences. Fake news is coming from unauthorized Facebook fan pages, Facebook affinity groups, random individuals, websites no one has ever heard of, and then worst of all, it is shared by people we love and trust so we don't question the authenticity for a second. And we share it.
So before you share that meme or that article that just blows the issue wide open, do me a favor and google it. I will show you how. First take the general ideas from what you are about to share and put it into google. Another great trick is to highlight a full statement in what you are about to share and search it. Fake news sites are notoriously lazy and they don't rewrite content. The exact same wording will be used again and again (usually the more outlandish, crude, or vulgar the comment the easier to find).
This takes seconds. Not even a full minute. And if you have time to like an article, read it, share it, and check your post every time someone likes/comments on it, then you have just found time to stop the spread of propaganda. If you care about this country as much as I do, show your patriotism, and make it harder for propaganda from Russians and other divisive parties to spread. It can't go viral if you don't spread it.
Let's do better America.