My friend gave me inspiration for this blog, heck, she even got it started for me:
"In the early days of social media....we were all wide eyed innocents....how many of us shared ridiculous fear-mongering stories of drugs shaped like candy or that Newman from Seinfeld or Sylvester Stallone had died, only to find that it was indeed a hoax.
But now it’s 2018....we’re smarter now, aren’t we?? I mean, we now know about bots, we know about coordinated government interference, we know about data mining and the psychological profiles that are used to market to us and to sway our ideas and emotions..... yet still, weekly, my feed is filled with friends sharing absurd stories designed to pray on our worst fears. The latest example is demanding we check our water bottles for pin prick holes because allegedly someone is injecting them with poison. It's so easy to verify this story on Snopes or Hoax Slayer or thatsnonsense.com in FIVE seconds....but still, there it is being shared by anxious suburban moms — coast to coast— igniting fear, spreading falsehoods, sharing completely made up shit. Why are so many of us eager to buy into these lies??"
One of the first —and hardest — lessons I learned through my blog was that it's imperative to check sources — FIFTY times over. For those who have followed my blog for a while, you may remember the vaccine post heard 'round the Conejo. I was tired. Sitting at my desk before I was about to head into a slew of interviews, I came across a story I had seen shared a few times in mom groups. Finally I briefly skimmed through it, thought, "Gee, that's sad," shared it and went on with my day.
It's important to note that this was a story about a "vaccine-related injury."
I emerged from a few hours of skype interviews to see my page ON FIRE. My PM's were blowing up. Pro-vaxxers (I am one) were unhinged over the share. I was being told via PM that everyone in the entire "pro-vax community" was ready to boycott against my page, and comments were filled with anger over the fact that I hadn't fact-checked/source-checked the story first.
I panicked. It was the first time I had faced severe backlash on my page. I made up some cover excuse for the share instead of just saying what had actually happened: "I was lazy, I made a lazy post and it was irresponsible." I was too busy trying to save face — it wasn't like me to make a mistake of this magnitude. And this one post was a huge ripple effect and shift in my blog. A group of extremely passionate supporters of my blog became, with a vengeance, my page's most dedicated haters. See, what's going on now — it's not the first time I've experienced controversy or sheer rabid hatred for me, and my page. I like to considered myself seasoned at this point in terms of what I've seen people write about me. Back then, after the fallout from my post, this group of women operated in unison to troll my page with fake accounts, start threads about me in other groups, suggest conspiracy theories and so on. It's kind of hilarious now, because that group of ladies seems straight up pleasant compared to my current situation. Like, I could see myself enjoying a beer with any of those ladies right now and laughing over "those crazy days!"
But at the time, it was so intense, within days I deactivated my page, did some wallowing in my own self-pity of soul-searching, and eventually relaunched my page, which I did with my name, and outed myself in a blog. Unicorn moms was also launched as a result... so, um, you're welcome or I'm sorry. Since then, I really haven't been "anonymous," and that's really when my page started its shift into what it has become today.
I'd say all of that is a pretty big lesson to learn from one careless post I gave zero thought to that morning when I hit share.
And since then, I genuinely make it an effort to double- and triple-fact check anything I share or that someone asks me to share on their behalf. Every time my husband reads something out loud to me, I immediately start asking: "What page is that from?" "Who shared it?" "Send me the link." It's practically second nature at this point. When I come across something viral shared on Facebook (or any social media, for that matter), I go directly to the comments scouring for any suggestion or link of backstory or source to verify or debunk whatever has been claimed. Memes? Unless they're humor-based memes, I don't dare share anything political until I've researched every statement in that meme.
It is so, so, so important. We all have a responsibility to share responsibly. Does something sound too unreasonable or too good to be true? Is there a lack of author bylines? Do you notice that the clickbait titles don't accurately portray the content of the article or story? Is it from a verified news source? Examine these things. Research the publication from which the story was published. Read the comment sections. Find two, three, four more sources that would verify it after a google check.
STOP BEING LAZY. Stop blindly sharing things simply because they fit your agenda or complement your viewpoint. That goes for all of us.