Wednesday, February 22, 2017

4 Strategies To Support Digital Responsibility

Note: Twitter won't let you share my blog url so use this instead: 

Innovative educators have the opportunity to promote, participate in, and model intelligent discourse in face-to-face and digital interactions. This means knowing the importance of making meaning of what we read and hear by gauging credibility, verifying sources, and looking at evidence and facts. It means we know that getting angry and calling others “stupid,” “ignorant,” or stereotyping them is not responsible. Instead, we share evidence with verified sources and present information that provides a variety of perspectives and viewpoints. This enables us to engage in responsible and intellectual, rather than baseless and emotional, conversations.  

Intelligent conversation is an effective weapon in the fight against the spread of fake news and  misinformation. It also helps us make informed decisions and consider what intentional next steps are necessary to achieve desired outcomes.

So, how do we begin?

#1 Share information showing perspectives along the continuum
Don’t just share information from the news source that you always see eye-to-eye with. When you share information, look across the continuum to get several perspectives. Pew's study of Americans' media habits provides a lens for this. It takes the average viewer/consumer of all of these media outlets and plotted them on a continuum, trying to ascertain which outlets are favored by which side of the political spectrum.

This means that when you are sharing information to support your beliefs, make sure you include sources across the continuum.

Let’s take a look at an example. Say you’re trying to understand Trump’s travel ban. Don’t just turn to your favorite news source. Instead, you may choose to look at his from CNN and this from Fox News, verify facts, and repeat.

Another nifty resource is Blue Feed, Red Feed which which lets you see liberal and conservative issues such as immigration, affordable care act, and abortion, side by side.  

#2) Verify the source

If you post information, make sure you can confirm the source. Unsigned, unsourced, and anonymous information, is a red flag. A story with a source is valuable. Share something without a source, regardless of how plausible you think it seems, means you’re probably just spreading an urban legend, fallacy, misinformation, old wives’ tale, rumor, or gossip.

We can look at a few popular posts that have made their rounds on social media to illustrate this point.

  • One post started like this:
    I can't believe I'm saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:

    The post provided information and ended citing the source: Susan Keller. She is a real person who takes credit for her words. You can see the original post and intellectual discourse around what she shared along with her responses.

    The verdict?
    Sharing this post is responsible.  
  • You’ve probably also seen posts where a source is named, but isn’t verified. For example, if someone tells you Warren Buffett or some other rich or famous person asked you to share his message, there’s a good chance he did not. Even if you think he did, you need to check into that.

    Here are 5 Ways To Know if he really did.

    The verdict?
    Sharing this post is irresponsible. Warren Buffett did not ask you to share his message AND the post is filled with misinformation.
  • Another post started like this:
    A Trump supporting Facebook friend told Scott Mednick, "We suffered for eight years. Now it’s your turn.” Scott wrote a brilliant response asking how exactly his friend had suffered under Obama.

    The source while cited, could not be verified. Did a friend really tell Scott Mednick this? Does Scott even exist?

    The verdict?
    Sharing this post is irresponsible.

    This is a post that pits people against one another without a verifiable source. We don’t know who the original poster is and we don’t know if there was suffering endured or if it was indeed legitimate. That is because we have no evidence this really happened.

#3) Show evidence and facts

Citizens are trying to make sense of what they are reading, seeing, and hearing by posting information to help gain knowledge and understanding. Bravo! This is a smart use of social media.

Sometimes, someone may inadvertently share information that is inaccurate or missing a part of the story. When that happens don’t attack, name call, and/or stereotype the poster. Instead, help the person, and others who are reading, by providing useful  information with evidence and facts. Pull relevant quotes from a credible source that provides clarity and link to the source. From there you can engage in intelligent discourse around the topic.

#4) Attack ideas, not people, parties, or affiliations
Don’t attack a person. Attack the idea. In other words, avoid ad hominem arguments. These are arguments that consists of replying to a person's argument by merely attacking the character of the person making the argument. With such arguments include name calling or calling others ignorant. Another common ad hominem fallacy is calling someone a hypocrite. In fact, that has its own name and is specifically referred to as an ad hominem tu quoque

So for example if the person shared something you feel is misleading or untrue explain, don't say they don't know what they are talking about or ask them for their record on the topic. Instead determine their intent behind why they shared the piece and then if there is a flaw, share evidence to the contrary. Invite them to share their reaction now that they have ad ditional information.

Here are some ineffective comments I’ve seen lately:
  • You and your tribe are all hypocrites.
  • I know you and your band of merry protesters too well. The whole lot of you act like spoiled children.
  • You are far removed from reality.
  • You're all nothing but a loud nuisance, and an inconsequential.
  • Your ignorance knows few bounds.
  • Where’s your record on the topic?
  • You're promoting information that lies/misleads/dismisses.
  • You have no idea what you are talking about.
The above comments were made in response to articles or information that people who believed them shared. In each case an ad hominem argument is used rather than intellectual discourse around discussing what was posted and responding to it with helpful information. The focus is the person rather than the idea or topic. This doesn’t move relationships nor understanding forward. If you think the article hypocritical or disconnected from reality, don't make it personal. That's not effective. Instead share verified information that shows otherwise. If you think posting an article shows lack of respect, share how that is the case and point to facts to that help the poster understand. If you think someone is ignorant on a topic, especially if you are an educator, help enlighten them. Don’t ask someone for their record on the topic. Don't make it personal. Keep the conversation on the topic/idea and grapple with that. Don’t tell someone they are lying or misleading. Give them information about why what they shared is inaccurate. If you think someone doesn’t know what they are talking about, don’t attack. Help them understand.  

There are those who may think this is too much work or it just takes too long to check things out. There are people who read something, agreed with it and figure they’ll just post it because they like it and maybe it might actually be true. That’s okay if you just want your own private bookmark, but when you do this in a social space there is etiquette and responsibility to follow. Especially for those who serve as role models such as educators.  

If you want to take the time to share your ideas in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, sometimes, you can’t just move fast. Slow down. Verify the source. Look at views that span the continuum of perspectives. Make sure you have evidence and facts. Attack ideas, not each other.

Yes, the process can seem slow and frustrating, but it keeps us moving forward while the alternative gets us nowhere fast. [Or consider the alternative -- just don’t post!]

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