By Emily Erickson
1. You open your device, check the wifi connection and scroll to find your preferred social media account. Upon its selection, your screen is flooded with photos of family vacations; videos of animals doing human things; and articles, memes, musings and videos the people on your friends list have posted. While browsing, you find a particular post of intrigue and feel compelled to post it on your own page for your followers to see. But, before you hit “share” you pause.
a. You consider, “Is this the original author of this post?,” checking to see if the content that found its way onto your feed is as close to the original author as possible: i.e., the person who wrote the words, took the picture, crafted the meme or made the video. If you confirm you’re at the original source of the work, continue on to Paragraph 2. If you can’t confirm the original source, or are reading anything that begins with, “Watch quickly before they take this down,” or ends with “Feel free to copy/paste,” proceed to 1b.
b. This post isn’t worth sharing. You should search for a higher quality piece of content to express this point of view; find something more enjoyable to share (any 30-second video with a dog as the subject); or refrain from posting altogether — rather, drink a big cup of water, shut off your device and search for a new hobby.
2. After you’ve confirmed you’re at the original source of the post, you turn your attention to the author. You’re focusing a skeptical eye on the person responsible for creating the content that has intrigued you so much, specifically trying to determine credibility.
a. You conclude that the author is creating from a place of as little bias and influence as possible, she has direct experience or education in the subject matter, or he is clearly emphasizing his content as a work of opinion and not to be confused with fact. You’ve determined the person who created the content is credible. Continue on to Paragraph 3.
b. You’re watching a video of an angry woman crying into her Snapchat filter, reading the musings of a hobby political blogger or are otherwise skeptical of the credibility of the person behind the post. Refer back to 1b.
3. You’ve arrived at the conclusion that the author of the post you’d like to share is qualified to provide insight into the subject matter she’s covering. Now it’s time to discern if her sources — and the facts she’s presenting — are up to snuff.
a. You dig a bit deeper into the content you’re investigating, looking for any articles referenced, study findings or facts presented, and any organizations behind the production or publication of the work. You check into all of the sources and find they too stand up to scrutiny. You learn that all of the facts referenced were derived from trusted, nonpartisan institutions or from efforts not led by organizations with vested interests in the study’s outcomes. You decide the facts, sources and studies are trustworthy. Continue on to Paragraph 4.
b. You’re getting your facts from a meme, follow links back to “Error 404 Not Found” pages or are otherwise unable to confidently claim the sources as legitimate. Circle back to 1b.
4. Your sources are squeaky clean and your facts are high quality, so you take a minute to examine the subject matter of your content, thinking about the effect posting it will have on you and your real-life relationships.
a. You consider if the subject matter is approachable, if it will encourage healthy discourse or if it will put a (non-menacing) smile on your followers’ faces. You determine the subject matter is important, has inherent value without a political charge and won’t damage any of your worthwhile, real-world relationships. Continue to Paragraph 5.
b. The subject matter is prefaced by, “I’m a good person, but…”; is unproductively divisive; or blatantly insensitive without cause. Refer back to 1b.
5. Finally, you’ve considered almost all there is to consider before hitting “share.” But, you know there is one last essential task to complete when asking,“Should I post that?” This is, of course, performing a personal assessment and your motivation for posting in the first place.
a. You check in with your mental and emotional state, questioning why you’re feeling compelled to share the post in the first place. You understand that seeking validation for questionable beliefs is not reason enough to post something, and that the likes and shares of others cannot fix anything you’re going through personally. You’ve recently consumed a cup of water and a healthy snack, have clarity that your compulsion to post is rooted in a good place and have time to thoughtfully navigate any commentary your post might prompt. Congratulations, you’ve done the necessary work and may continue on to share or post.
b. You’re using social media as a Band-Aid for work that you should be doing in a therapist’s office. Schedule an appointment with your local provider and return to 1b.
Now please like and share this article filled with my opinion on all of your social media channels. Or, erm, wait a minute…
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