As we stay mostly at home during the pandemic, we find ourselves more involved with social media. We are posting more and seeing more of the posts from our friends and family. Many of us have run into issues with this as we are seeing more from people we might otherwise not and many of their memes, statements, and stances are hurtful, discriminatory, or misinformed.
We created this guide out of our own need to try to help everyone engage in more meaningful online and social media discourse. It can also be used in in-person interactions if you’re able to memorize some responses that really strike a chord with you.
Call centers and support groups often use predetermined scripts to address common problems or questions quickly and succinctly. We’ve given you some tools to tackle some of the most common issues we see online and in person.
It is important to speak out against injustice, discrimination, hate, and misinformation. It can be difficult when people get angry. Let’s try to do this in a kind, caring, and compassionate way while still maintaining our integrity. Every interaction is different, but you may want to avoid drawn-out conversations or arguments online. Your chances of changing someone else’s mind are miniscule. But we can provide tools to change their OWN minds. You could try posting your position, the link to more information, and hope that someone takes the opportunity to reevaluate their position with the provided information that they can peruse on their own. This engagement may work better than a confrontation.
Important things to keep in mind on Social Media
- Keep it nice and civil. No name calling. No profanities.
- Watch your responses. Make sure you’re not being baited or misdirected. The point gets muddied in the trap. It’s usually better to let ridiculous notions go.
- Follow-up and clarification is OK, just don’t get distracted from the main point.
- One post, one topic. Stay on topic and focus on the specific issue at hand.
- Do not get bogged down in a thread. As soon as you get a hint of treading water leave it be.
- Support those that are helping you make a point.
- Do not disparage those disagreeing with you.
- Make distinctions between subjective opinions and objective opinions.
- Make distinctions between conspiratorial and conventional thinking.
- Stay alert for cognitive biases.
- Source good, reliable news and website sources.
- Stay positive!
Again, your job is not to convince anyone. It is to give them the tools to make better decisions for themselves. Don’t get hung up on one person or one topic. Keep moving. Plus, the more tools you put out there the more those that see these threads will have the tools to help them.
Before you jump in, there are a couple of other tools that you can use and share during your daily online interactions.
Know Our Cognitive Biases
Cognitive biases make our judgments irrational. We have evolved to use shortcuts in our thinking, which are often useful, but a cognitive bias means there’s a kind of misfiring going on causing us to lose objectivity. Once you know about the biases, you’ll see how you and others fall victim to them.
Become familiar with at least the 24 basic human cognitive biases. There is more on this site but this will get you started.
- https://yourbias.is/ – Please support them if you can. It is a valuable resource.
Everyone has cognitive biases and we cannot help but be affected by them. But knowing when they are occurring decreases their power. They’re used extensively in social media.
Difference Between Subjective Opinions and Objective Information
A common tactic used is conflating objective and subjective together to prove a point. This often comes out in “respecting another opinion”. As defined by https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary
- Subjective: experience or knowledge as conditioned by personal mental characteristics or states
- Objective: facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations
This is an important difference that needs to be understood. These two opinions are vastly different and hold different social responsibility.
- Orange is a better color than green. (Subjective)
- Masks can help protect people from COVID19. (Objective)
The first is a completely subjective opinion and does not hurt or disparage anyone. It is the purest definition of an opinion. A subjective opinion is neither right nor wrong but based off one’s personal feelings or beliefs. You don’t need to argue opinions.
The second argues for or against objective information. Objectively, speaking, the second statement is a fact. We know it is a fact because many different scientific studies have shown that masks are effective in helping to stop the spread of diseases like COVID19. Feelings and beliefs should have little to do with this because it is a fact, and not a feeling. However, this is where many problems lie because people may discount the studies or get their information from bad sources. These should be the targets of your online campaign. Facts, science, and reality back up these ideas. It is important to speak up because even if feelings might be hurt, at least some people may be protected.
Difference between Conspiratorial Thinking and Conventional Thinking
There is a small PDF that was published early in 2020 that covers this topic amazingly well. Please take some time to read it. It will give a good insight into recognizing the difference in these two ways of thinking and how to combat conspiratorial thinking. This is a vital tool in your toolbox against the many conspiracy theorists out there.
- The Conspiracy Theory Handbook: https://www.climatechangecommunication.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/ConspiracyTheoryHandbook.pdf
Quality of Resources Makes a Difference
No matter what side of the discussion, we often reference websites and news sources to back up our point of view.
First, be aware of confirmation bias and how easily we can become victims of it. This is a bias which states we are far more likely to believe something that agrees with the notions we already believe than something that does not.
Second, the quality of the sources usually relates to the quality of the stance. If you are talking with someone who thinks the Earth is flat and they are posting a link to a fringe website talking about their stance. it is a less reliable source than NASA’s website. The arguments about whether the earth is flat or round do not share equal weight. It is something that can be stated but if whoever it is you are discussing the topic with disagrees you will never convince them. They are slaves to their confirmation bias.
This same idea should be employed with news sources. AP News or Reuters is far more reliable and trustworthy then Fox News or MSNBC. Use the following website to help you follow and share news readers instead of news feeders.
- News Reader: A news outlet that states events in a factual matter excluding adjectives and “spin”. Aggressively fact checked to present information in the best and least skewed manner.
- News Feeder: A news outlet that states events in a specific point of view. Often elevating one side over the other. Not aggressively fact checked as well as having cherry picked details which skews the information a certain way.
Having a larger source of News Readers in your diet of information is much more healthy and better for conventional, rational thinking. It will help you to formulate ideas and opinions that are closer to reality of the news presented.
Here is a fantastic resource to use and share often. Try to get your news from the sources at the top center. Those are the “News Readers”.
- Media Bias Chart: https://www.adfontesmedia.com/interactive-media-bias-chart/
- AP News
- NPR News
- ABC News
- The Wall Street Journal
- The New York Times
- CBS NEWS
- The Hill
You Have The Tools, Now Get To Work on Social Media
I hope that you have made it this far. I know it is a long article, but these tools will help you in online interactions.
You may be able to plant a seed of fact and help change people’s minds for the better. If nothing else, you’ll seed the bubble around you with good information, healthy thinking habits, an eye for manipulations, and a heightened level of social discourse.
Scripts and References for Use in Social Media
Below you will find statements and references for use on social media. These are not the stances that you have to take, but we hope that they offer you a way to quickly and eloquently post on social media in an attempt to stem the racist, sexist, bias, hurtful, hateful, and destructive posts that continue to circulate.
If we raise the bar, perhaps we can make a meaningful difference in the days to come.
Thank you so much for standing up and speaking out. Our Revolution is a protest activist group and we hope our members call out and condemn inequality, hate, and misinformation whenever they encounter it. Through your efforts we can make this a better world.