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Sharing Fear on Facebook

June 5th, 2017 . by maria

Preface: I’m putting this over here on the blog instead of answering these posts directly on FaceBook because I have tried that before, and I don’t want those friends thinking I am picking on them constantly. But I need to get this off my chest:

GOD DOES NOT WANT US PARANOID AND AFRAID. He does not want us spending all our time looking for the boogeyman, checking under the bed, and leaving a light on in the closet. When you share or forward warnings, you THINK you are saving your friends. But if those warnings are outdated or false, you are planting fear where it doesn’t need to be. There are enough things to fear in this world, and we certainly should be fighting against all the ugliness and evil. But if you are spending more time, and more fb posts, on the negative, you are only amplifying the voice of fear!

2 Tim 1:7

So, what should I do when I want to share a warning on FaceBook ? I would like you to consider these key thoughts:

  1. Is it my calling to share this?
  2. Is it true?
  3. What do I ask of my audience?
  4. Can I make this positive instead?

You are thinking: “But wait – this sounds like a lot of work!” Informing people is a great responsibility, and it should only be undertaken if you are willing to do the work to be sure that what you are sharing is TRUTH. Because if it is not truth, what is it? So, let’s dig into these ideas and hopefully you’ll see that they are actually reasonable expectations.

Is it my calling to share this?

Don’t just think “people should know”, but ask if YOU specifically have a calling around this topic and a voice of authority in this area. Example: When my dog trainer shares an article about how flexy leashes are dangerous, I can trust that she has read it and understands the issues. She isn’t just trusting the headline. She has some knowledge and experience to back this up. On the flip side, she is not a computer expert, and would not be the best person to decide if the latest virus warning deserves my attention. (It might, or she could be wasting my time…I’d rather hear about malware from Bruce Schneier, because he’s only going to address the bad ones that my antivirus can’t stop, which are the only ones I need to worry about.)

Is it true?

Some internet warnings started out life based on a joke, a satirical article, a single incident from 5 years ago, or a personal vendetta – and have long since outlived their usefulness. Some are based on half-truths, or on something that is true only for X brand of product, or only an issue for people with Y condition. These are important things to note! Example: “fidget spinners can kill your child” is completely different than “some toys have lead in them”. Your friend whose child has benefitted from the spinner will be glad to know they don’t have to give them up completely, and all parents – even those who could care less about fidget spinners – need to be aware of lead poisoning potential in any toys from China.

It is helpful to do a web search on the key phrase from a warning, such as “gas pumps hiv needles”. See if a website you trust for news has covered the topic, and look for the important take-away on the subject. (That one was a hoax in June of 2000, but it is still in circulation.) Look for scientific research, personal experience stories (more than just one), etc.

Also check sites that specifically debunk articles. They often declare something a hoax long before it hits the media – if it ever does. Yes, many of these sites have particular political leanings. Even if the site’s editors are biased, if they include links to outside sources to prove/refute a claim, those sources can be valuable for getting more information.

So check news, hoax sites, and research-based articles. The more data you get, the more variety in your sources, the more accurate your conclusion will be. (Remember: one occurrence is not data, it’s an anecdote/anomaly.)

What do I ask of my audience?

Yes, you have an audience! And that should change the way you think about sharing stuff! Who is your audience on FaceBook? All your friends/followers.  Example: If you have toddlers, and most of your friends have kids that age, then “toddler parents” are your audience. So, it is easy to decide to share a post about defective sippy cups. And buying a different sippy cup isn’t much to ask. But it can be trickier to decide if you should share about hunger in Uganda. Yes, it’s happening…But what, exactly, do you want your friends to do about it, when they are trying to feed their own children? Is it something you have done? Is it realistic to expect your friends to pray/donate/protest/change their habits about ALL the things they see on FaceBook each week? Wouldn’t more focus create more impact?

Can I make this positive instead?

Knowledge about a problem is good, but knowledge about a solution is better. Sharing about a study showing that X creates autisim? Why not share a study that shows that Y is an effective learning tool for kids with autism. Don’t just share the “supplement is bad” headline article – tell your friends how easy it has been for YOU to grow the herb, and why that’s better than the supplement. If you want to call attention to a cause, you can’t just do it with negative information.

The constant negative posts only make it seem like a huge problem that can’t be solved. Eventually, your friends will think there’s no way THEY can make an impact, and begin to see your posts as paranoid and negative. But sharing positive research, realistic calls to action, and your OWN active involvement in the problem, helps to cultivate your authority on a subject. And that’s something your friends will listen to.

SUMMARY

If the claim passes ALL those tests, choose the most reliable and informed source and share that ALONG WITH your thoughts and actions on the subject. Sharing a NEW link is better than sharing the original facebook post, because your friends likely saw that one, and adding this one shows them there are multiple sources warning about this. They are more likely to pay attention. Adding your thoughts shows that you put some effort into the post, which should touch the heart of your friends. But if you can show them an action you have taken, they will see it as an action THEY could take as well, and THAT’s a way to share IMPACT, and not fear.

 

 

P.S. Debunking site links:

Below are some links to ‘debunking’ websites. Some of these sites have more of a tech focus (viruses and scam emails), some more of an urban legend focus (spider bites and slender man), and some have particular political leanings, so “pick your poison” as they say. But political bias is not a reason to rule out all fact checking. (i.e. “snopes has ties to…” does NOT equal “all fact checking is bad”) Having more information on a topic allows you to have more authority to prove or refute a claim.

Use the search function on one of these sites to find what you’re looking for. Also, check the homepage to see if the site is still being updated. (Some good hoax sites go dormant after a few years, when the editor burns out.)

Hoax-slayer.net, straightdope.com, truthorfiction.com, hoaxorfact.com, factcheck.org, urbanlegendsonline.com, thoughtco.com, and the ever-unpopular ‘because it is run by liberals nothing on it could possibly be accurate’ snopes.com .