It’s likely you’ve experienced this at least once this year. You’re scrolling through your news feed and see a family member or friend’s post with information you doubt is true. Since posts with conspiracy theories or photoshopped pictures are sensational and exaggerated, they are constantly going viral. With the pandemic, upcoming elections, and overwhelming stress of uncertainty, 2020 has been an especially tough year to uncover the truth. It’s important we all do our part to stop the spread of misinformation, but how can you do that without contributing to the chaos? Even more challenging – how can you do that when the one spreading conspiracies or misinformation is a loved one?
1. Fact check your information before correcting others. Before commenting on your loved one’s post, verify that the content posted is false. Reference where you read where it was false so they can also read and understand why it’s fake.
2. Be discreet and kind. No one likes to be called out publicly when they are misinformed. It is always better to opt for a private message first.
3. Buffer your response to misinformation. Take time to acknowledge we’re all susceptible to misinformation. Explain that since you care for them, you don’t want them to be influenced by a fabricated story. Clarify your intention is to shed light on the truth – NOT make a personal attack.
4. Always give expert sources. Family and old friends grew up with you and have seen many different sides of you. They may not trust you as a credible source, especially if you haven’t kept in touch. Giving them resources to check out can help.
5. Standing by the truth means distinguishing between opinion and false facts. You are in a better position to discuss and not react to what you read if you remind yourself and your loved one that facts matter more than opinions. You don’t get to decide a fact is not a fact just because it contradicts with your opinion or feelings.
6. Know when it’s a lost cause. Some family and friends would rather FEEL right than be right. That is human nature, and you cannot change it, even with people close to you. When a conversation with someone you care about becomes combative, the wisest stance is to stand with the truth but let go of the discussion.
Social media has given us the ability to constantly share our opinions and feelings. It’s natural that each of those opinions is defended by the person offering it. The best way to stop the spread of fake news is to say less and, when you do speak, share the facts.