Our Social Media Needs a Good Washing
By Rachel Lee-Carey
Our social media is in desperate need of a good power wash. If you’re anything like me your Facebook and Instagram isn’t just filled with ads and cute videos of rescued pitbulls. It’s flooded with crap information, misleading propaganda, and straight up lies and I’m tired of it. Luckily, the awesome people I work with are tired of it too. That’s why we are launching #FactFlood.
Back in early March, I fell hard for a rumor circulating on Facebook. It was in the early weeks of COVID-19 and everything felt crazy. COVID was this dark specter that seemed to loom around every corner, with very little you could do to protect yourself. Having been sent home from my job, I also had tons of new-found time to scroll through my social media.
And then one morning boom, there it was (seemingly reported from Stanford University):
“Take a deep breath and hold your breath for more than 10 seconds. If you complete it successfully without coughing, without discomfort, stiffness or tightness, etc., it proves there is no (COVID-19 caused) fibrosis in the lungs, basically indicates no infection.”
I jumped on this morsel of information like it was a life vest in the sea of doubt I’d been drowning in. FINALLY, here was something active I could do; a quick barometer for my health during a time when I’d have to be an NBA player or something to even get access to a COVID test. For the next few mornings, I’d get up, drink the glass of water by my bed and hold my breath for ten seconds.
Luckily and embarrassingly, one of the students whose research I was overseeing, heard me mention my morning routine during our new morning Zoom huddle. “You know, that doesn’t really make sense, right?” The second those words left his mouth, it was like a bolt of lightning. Years of Columbia pre-med along with hundreds of hours of clinic and lab work came flooding back. Yeah, that is the embarrassing part, I work for a hospital and oversee student research into COVID-19, and I got fooled by a bad piece of trumped up Facebook disinfo.
In retrospect, I think some part of my anxiety ridden brain that knew this was crap, because I didn’t share it. I didn’t even tell my fiancé about my morning routine. But thousands of people did. This “Stanford University” PSA made its way to millions of eyes through social media networks. And this was a pretty benign rumor. I mean not much damage can be done holding your breath. But it’s just one of thousands of pieces of disinformation flooding our social media channels, making it hard to tell rumor from reality, fact from fiction. In some cases it’s nothing that will cause even a tiny blip in your day. In other cases, it polarizes politics, lengthens public health crises, and could even be partly responsible for many deaths.
So, what can we do when our feeds are full of crap? When we can’t trust what we read. How do we even begin to fight back?
For the past few months I’ve joined a team that is working on this exact problem, and here is what we’ve sussed out:
- We are all vulnerable to disinformation, but there are ways to identify what is real and what is not. We can learn to spot disinformation, identify good and credible sources of news, and empower ourselves to take back our newsfeeds and drown the disinfo on our timelines.
- The way to get the crap off our feeds is not to spend our days as keyboard warriors, correcting every misguided friend or family member. Instead we can flood the zone with facts. Real facts from real credible sources. What we do, is #FactFlood.
That’s where you come in. To be effective we need, a team, a squad, an army of people willing to help us all wash the crap out of our feeds. Who can help us spread facts instead of the dangerous fiction.
So how can you get involved?
Join the #FactFlood Challenge online! The rules are very simple. If you see an example of disinformation on social media you pledge to:
- Ghost the lie:
- Disinfo runs on attention. If you see sketchy news online, refuse to comment, react, share, respond or engage.
- Get the truth:
- Find a fact check or reliable source. Here’s a list.
- #FactFlood the zone:
- Post truth with #factflood on your feeds, groups and pages. Repetition wins.
How can you be a part of it?
- Join our Reality Team Newsletter. Every week we’ll share our progress, highlight the best #FactFlood posts of the week, and share clever tips that will help us all get better at spotting sketchy news and disinfo.
Subscribe and Get Real.
Sign up to get our quick, reliable info in your inbox. Please also join our Reality Team Group on Facebook to get exclusive insider content, including Facebook frames, videos, and more.
See an error in our work? Please let us know and include the source of your info. We’ll update or correct as appropriate.