Use social media to uplift and encourage, not malign and tear down
With the advent of the digital age a new dynamic has emerged that has altered the course of human history and destroyed the lives of victims across the globe. Both of the recent United States presidents have used social media, with the current president having highlighted what he has termed as fake news and in turn creating his own narrative through Twitter. Social media is a great tool, but in the hands of the reckless and malicious it becomes a digital atomic bomb. So many persons are gullible and susceptible to salacious news that they don’t bother to ask questions or do research. When something is published on social media, they accept it as being real just because it is broadcast.
With this great tool there is an even greater responsibility to make sure that it is used for good and carefully examined before conclusions are drawn. As someone who has been in the forefront of the development of Internet and social media in The Bahamas, I know this all too well. I find myself even now having to constantly correct misinformation and fake news stories many times after the damage has already been done. I have been involved in incidences where people have contemplated suicide because of false or misleading posts. I have witnessed fake news stories years old resurfacing to defame the character of good people. I, like many, have also been the victim of malicious posts that are either devoid of truth or slanderous. As a solution-oriented individual, rather than simply decrying the abuse of social media I would like to offer some advice to prevent misinformation and character assassination.
• Find the original source: Who wrote what you are repeating and when did they write it? If we do some simple research and determine the source of a post it goes a long way in determining its veracity.
• Can you find corroboration in mainstream media: If a story is true, and supposedly a major breaking story it will be covered by mainstream media. If it is local, check one of the local news outlets to see if they are aware or are covering it. If it is international and is missing from CNN, NBC, CBS and Fox News it is unlikely to be true as major news stations cover all national and international news stories.
• Google it: A simple Google search using the words, is this story true or is this fake news can reveal if something has been making the rounds on social media before. For example, reports of a famous designer saying he does not want black people wearing his clothes was a fake news story that kept resurfacing every few years because some people did not fact check the story and instead simply reposted it.
• Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The golden rule is golden on social media. Think about whether you would like to have a false or slanderous story posted about you before repeating something about someone else. Jesus gave this advice over 2,000 years ago and it is still true, do not do something to someone else you would not want done to you.
• Even if it is true, is it helpful or hurtful to repeat? Sometimes it is better not to repeat something that is true but is damaging to others. Perhaps the person has already suffered enough, and they need encouragement and restoration rather than being continually beaten down about a mistake they may have made.
• Philippians 4:8 New International Version (NIV) Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. I would add – think about and post on these things. Use social media to uplift and encourage not malign and tear down
The next time you are tempted to repeat a story or post something follow these simple rules and you will be on the helpful side of history instead of the hurtful side. You may also be sowing a seed that will either come back to you in the form of a bitter or better harvest. Let’s sow for a better harvest.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.