by Cornelia Dolian
In the wake of the 2016 election, there was much discussion about the way various media operates and the ways we consume it.
Fake news. Confirmation bias. Red feed/blue feed.
We circulated lists and graphs showing which news sources were trustworthy, which were inaccurate, which were slightly biased, which were basically mouthpieces for their political leanings. People seemed receptive to the notion that not all Internet sources are equal.
And yet, some of us are still sharing the kinds of things that made me cringe during the election cycle: Memes meant to stick it to, debase, or otherwise mock the “other” side. Incendiary articles from barely credible, blatantly slanted sites. Half-truths, misinformation, even posts urging people to call Congress about upcoming votes that have, in fact, already passed.
I get it. We’re all trying to do our part. We’re trying to #resist and help keep this country from teetering into a deep chasm of multi-flavored hate, volatility, conflict, and economic and social despair.
So, I don’t want to be *that* person, the one pushing her glasses up her nose and correcting her friends in an exaggerated nerd-a-la-90s-sitcom voice, to the tune of “Well, actually, you see, that’s not exactly correct. In fact…”
But, actually, you see, in fact...
We need to be discerning about what we consume and share. There is too much at stake and we can only make an impact if we are well informed and acting on things where we still have a chance to change minds.
Snopes and Google are (usually) our friends. So are reputable news sources.
No site whose articles are ultra concerned with slamming and shaming those it opposes — but only slightly concerned with accuracy in reporting — passes muster as a credible news source. Even if it makes funny memes. Even if it gets people fired up and does a nice job of searing the worst aspects of what it opposes.
These sites are not helping us make our case about anything, to anyone who doesn’t already agree with us 100%, nor are they helping us make rational and well-formed arguments in favor of what we’re advocating or against what we’re opposing. If what we’re really looking to do is affect change or stand up and be counted against the things we disagree with in this administration, we have to reach higher.
Also, before sharing a call-to-action, let’s please take a moment to figure out whether it’s actually still relevant. And, if someone lets us know that something we have posted is inaccurate or no longer timely, let’s please do the right thing and either remove our post or somehow correct it.
In our efforts to do something now, we may jump the proverbial gun sometimes and post before double-checking. And sometimes news moves faster than we do, and just a day or two away can make us miss something big. But when someone gives us more accurate or timely information on something we’ve posted, it’s our responsibility to use our platforms to disseminate that updated information.
Energy and time are precious commodities, so we have to be careful to expend both on initiatives that have a chance of working.
If we’re going to be effective in pressing for progress, we must have our facts straight and focus on the things we can actually change. And we must engage with and share some of the less snappy, less fun parts of political discourse: thoughtful analyses, well-reasoned arguments, investigative journalism, facts, etc.
This isn’t to say abandon all fun, ye who aim to affect change. There’s nothing wrong with a little wit for wit’s sake. A little meme that our friends can “this” and “+1” all the way down the comments line.
I’m just suggesting we temper the fun and the catharsis with real news about the very real things going on and affecting very real people. Let’s think beyond click and “like” bait, no matter how plump and juicy they can be..
Cornelia L. Dolian writes fiction and nonfiction. She’s between websites, but you can connect with her on Medium (@cornelialdolian), Twitter (@cornelialdolian) and Facebook.