Using Social Media Wisely

Using Social Media Wisely

Twenty years ago, I might have told someone to refuse to listen to gossip, and to check any stories they did hear carefully. “You need to get to the source,” I would say.

There’s a reason that Paul puts gossip on so many sin lists: It can tear up a church. But readers of this blog are interested in other sorts of organizations. Well, gossip can tear up your business, ruin your workplace atmosphere, and even tear up your professional organizations.

It’s common these days to blame social media. But social media is a means (a “medium,” one might say) of sharing the things we might say in any case. I get news of my grandchildren on my personal social media. On my business accounts I put out information I think is important (a link to this post will go out on various outlets), I discuss people’s needs in terms of educational material or publishing, and I can even respond to issues with their IT equipment.

Then there are all those posts I skip. And those are doubtless the ones everyone is worried about.

The problem is this: Most people are worrying about what “those other people” are posting. They’re going ahead and liking or even loving the stuff that “people like me” post. They do it without considering whether the source is reliable, or whether the source could know the information provided, or even who that source might be.

Just as someone can claim to be an expert in a crowded room of people, and will find some to believe it, so someone can claim to be an organization and have a page on social media.

The answer is not to get rid of all the fakers, though I applaud the efforts of social media companies to remove accounts that misrepresent their identify. If “Society for Telling the Truth All the Time” is actually some guy in his mom’s basement telling lies, the account should go. But the fact is that not all the fake accounts will go, and not everybody is going to tell the truth, even if they have a verified identity.

Two points:

  1. See technology as a tool. Your behavior is your behavior. It’s not the fault of the medium. Taking responsibility is good. Blaming technology for bad behavior is irresponsibility.
  2. Know that, especially in the information age, you can’t know everything, so you don’t need to have an opinion about everything. I pass by things on a daily basis that I’m “pretty sure” are wrong, but I don’t post corrections. Why? I don’t have time, and I don’t have an adequate reference. Combine that with the fact that I don’t think you should believe it just because I do, and the thing to do is not speak.

To summarize, you don’t have to have an opinion on everything, and when you have an opinion, you don’t always have to express it. Try expressing only those things for which you have a valid source or verifiable authority.

Relevant link: It’s still ridiculously easy to manipulate Facebook with anger

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