The Ebolazation of Social Media

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The Ebolazation of Social Media image ebola virusNo, this isn’t another post of 10 Things Marketers Can Learn from the Ebola Virus. Been far too many of those.

What this is is a post about how we use social media, and how we often don’t think and turn off our brains while engaging and sharing on social media.

One person in the U.S. with the ebola virus, and Facebook and Twitter are in a bit of a panic. People hear about ebola in the news, and on social media, and they hear that it is “deadly” and “highly contagious” and, not surprisingly, gives them reason for concern. People write posts and articles about the dangers, thousands of us share them on social channels, often without reading them, and we add to the panic. In the meantime, it appears as if the risk, at least here in the U.S. is not that great, at least when you look at how the disease is actually spread.

This is not an ebola issue. It’s a “we” issue. How WE use social media.

In the rush to be first, to be “helpful,” to be the bearers of important news, we latch onto the trending topic of the day and share, often without discernment. A deadly virus that we believe could run rampant through our communities is fascinating, and for some odd reason, we all want to be the bearers of bad or sensation news. We want to be the first to post about the death of a celebrity, or other bad news about prominent figures. We desire to be on the cutting edge of “reporting” disasters and information about major crimes.

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I admit, I’ve done this, and I regret it.

Here are six questions to ask before you share, whether it is from your personal accounts, and especially your business accounts:

1. Did I read the article, and did I read it carefully?

Do you know what the article is really saying or are you posting solely based on the headline? A sensationalist headline should always be a red flag.

2. Did I consider the source?

Not all news sources are created equal. True, none are truly objective, but some sources at least seek after objectivity whereas others have very clear agendas. Is your source reliable? Is it written from a specific perspective with a specific agenda? That doesn’t mean the source is wrong, but we need to be discerning. Don’t just seek out sources that agree with your perspective.

3. Did I weigh the evidence?

Don’t just read things and believe everything you see. A certain level of skepticism is good and healthy. Are there other sources reporting the same thing, or is this the only source? Is the information in the article based on reliable information from reliable sources, or is there must conjecture? Do you understand the difference between fact and opinion, and does the article in question push opinion or conjecture as if it were fact? This ties closely to the next point…

4. Did I consider opposing viewpoints?

Is everyone in agreement on the nature of what you are posting, or are their varying and opposing viewpoints? Just because you happen to disagree with an opposing viewpoint doesn’t mean you should disregard it and blindly accept those items that square with your own perspective. I’m convinced that this sort of thing is what is causing us to lose the middle ground in a highly divisive and polarized political climate. Social media postings contribute to this greatly.

5. Am I contributing to the conversation or merely fanning the flames?

In other words, why are you posting it? Does it move the conversation forward, or is it merely a desire to be the first to post, or to show you are part of the crowd? Do you expect to get a reaction from others? Getting a reaction, and seeking to get a reaction, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if that is the end game, it could be problematic. We have enough people fanning the flames of hysteria, do we really need one more? Will your post just add to the noise, or is it a potentially important contribution?

6. Will I lose anything by waiting a few minutes or hours to post this?

If you take the time to stop to answer the first five questions, you then have to consider this one. Is there a reason to post immediately? What do you stand to gain

Before you post and share online, ask yourself these six questions. If you’re happy with the answers, post away! Feel free to share. You can even apply this 6 question test to the way in which you respond to other folk’s posts.

It’s a matter of thinking and being intentional and purposeful, and of mitigating any potential damage that might result.

Be careful. Be thoughtful. Share to inform, and not inflame.


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