We’ve been falling in love and fighting over money, improving ourselves and failing at the first hurdle, going to war, and promising peace. People have tried to make sense of the senseless in the past. This isn’t our first rodeo, but it is the fastest and furthest information can be shared.
You already know the feeling of waking up to the news of an atrocity shared with you over WhatsApp, or as the result of some early morning ‘doom scrolling’ through your socials. It’s almost unavoidable. A lot of well-intentioned, yet often, uninformed or unchecked information that could be true.
We’re either at the point of apathy, or we’re soaking it all in. The escalating numbers, the gloom, the lockdown cycles, trials, opinion pieces and race reports. As the old phrase goes: “You are what you eat.” And for the last year and a bit, kept away from our work, social lives and family, we’ve been on a solid diet of shock with little to no distraction.
Sharing on social media is understandable and at times powerful. It’s a brilliant tool for connection and communication with friends and loved ones. It can serve as a way to push for justice and shed a light on issues marginalised communities face that mainstream media doesn’t look at. But it also has a downside. As humans we often feel the urge to consolidate our position and opinions, it’s how we operate, no one likes to be wrong and social media fuels that desire. We develop a theory, then attempt to validate it with whatever we have at hand to prove ourselves right. Social media can act not just as an echo chamber, with each of us following and focusing on what confirms our own thoughts and feelings, but also as a rabbit hole of misinformation and misdirection.
To be fair some unlikely and down right crazy theories do develop into facts: Relativity by Einstein, the earth being round by ancient Greek geographer Eratosthenes. All notions of what could be, but then, crucially, backed up by indisputable proof. Proven facts are what we should all be dealing with but that’s often not the case online.
Sharing is understandable. Our inquisitive minds are geared towards finding the path of least resistance, of a sign or message that helps convince us that some sense can be made of the current state of the world.
We human beings have been doing this from the beginning of time. This isn’t new. We’ve been falling in love and fighting over money, improving ourselves and failing at the first hurdle, going to war, and promising peace. People have tried to make sense of the senseless in the past. This isn’t our first rodeo, but it is the fastest and furthest information can be shared. And that can be dangerous.
Therefore, we may need to pause before we share anything that just makes sense to us. Confirmation bias kicks in and we pass along the video or link or picture without checking to see if the content is true or even the right sentiment. Sharing something that asks questions without providing answers can add to the anxiety already being acutely felt by many.
Sure, it comes from a good place, but it could land with someone in a very different way than intended. Tied in with the fact that inaction is unthinkable, we quite naturally feel we need to do something.
Abstaining from comment until the facts are straight is a good idea. “Silence is a form of speech,” wrote Susan Sontag. Sometimes we need to sit in the stillness and reflect. Even when nothing is happening, something is happening. This is hard for us to understand — especially in today’s world where we measure ourselves with our level of productivity and often confuse activity for efficacy.
We can always use our free will to decide how we feel about a message, but we cannot know for sure how it will be received. A little bit of thought about the mental health of the recipient of our message can go a long way. Spreading a little positivity is always welcome. We all want to be reassured and the chances are that the message will be on target for more than one person. There’s a universal beauty in spreading a little love.
We should share messages that make us grateful for what we have now and hopeful for the future. The news is understandably wall to wall Coronavirus and what is left in its wake. It’s all we see everywhere we look. It dominates our collective thoughts like nothing before. It has directed the march of the mainstream media and made a vortex on social media that’s hard to escape. So why just focus on the doom and gloom when we speak to each other? Our communication shouldn’t just be informative but encouraging and inspiring. A welcome tonic to the mania all around us.
So before you share that post think about what you’re sending and who you’re sending it to. Take a breath. Pause.
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