Check the Facts Before You Post on Social Media
Before you post information about others on social media, think twice. Is the post true? Even if it is true, will it hurt someone else? Is it any of your business to spread news about someone you’ve heard? Social media is a great was to communicate and keep in touch with friends. But it has a dark side.
Whether people are judged wrongly in a situation or are simple spreading rumors, it’s always important to check the facts before we judge.
Here are a few examples of how information on social media can get out of hand.
Imagine you are in the back seat, playing with your phone as your dad drives you to soccer practice. You pass Liam, a kid from school. His arms are waving and his face is red as he yells at a small boy you don’t know. And your dad has driven past the scene, his attention on the road.
You shake your head, then go online and post: “What’s up with Liam? Just saw him screaming at some little kid. He’s such a loser.” “We’re here,” your dad says. “Give me your phone.”
You do and head to the locker room.
After practice, as you’re changing, you tell your teammates about Liam. “You should have seen him. And the kid was half his size.” One of the kids you tell whips out his phone and posts: “Liam. Always thought you were a jerk. Now I know.”
Only when you’re buckled in the back seat does your dad hand you your phone. Turning it on, you see that lots of your friends have commented on how much of a jerk Liam is. You feel a burst of pride. After all, you were the one who told the world about Liam’s horrible behavior.
You start responding as your dad detours to the school to get your big sister from her basketball practice.
When your sister gets in the car, she’s excited. “Did you hear about the Jameson boy? He took off from his mom and was over by the freeway throwing rocks at cars.”
Your dad shoots her a strange look. “How do you know this?”
“Well, Liam was riding by on his bike and the kid threw a rock at him. So he pulled into the ditch and told him to stop. He tried to get the kid’s home number and the boy wouldn’t tell him. Our coach had to stop drills when Liam called her to get the Mom’s number.”
You feel the slow burn of embarrassment start creeping up your neck.
“Mrs. Jameson was frantic,” your sister continues. “She’d even called the police because she couldn’t find him. The cops showed up anyway because they’d had reports about a kid throwing rocks at cars—sirens and everything. It was a wild scene.”
“Wow. Scary. A little boy that close to the freeway. And throwing rocks, no less. Good thing Liam has a head on his shoulders. That Jameson boy could have hurt someone or got hurt himself.”
And there you are, looking at all the mean postings about Liam.
You take a breath and write your next post: “Hey, everybody. Turns out that the real jerk around here is me. I’ve just learned the hard way not to make fast judgments about people. Things aren’t always what they seem to be.”
A Story of Before and After
My odd friends are once again teaching me how what we think can sometimes fool us. Let me tell you about Rahim and Sandy. Rahim is a quiet, gentle guy and all the girls I know have a secret crush on him. The one with the biggest crush is Sandy. What put him in solid with her was when she saw him one afternoon at the mall.
A girl who was dressed kind of oddly was being bullied by a group of rude boys. Sandy, watching in the food court, saw Rahim stride up to the group and order the boys away from the girl who by this time was crying.
Rahim stood between the weeping girl and bullies until mall security came and escorted the boys away. Sandy watched as the guards thanked Rahim and the girl’s mother ran up to hug her girl.
Sandy texted me from the food court: “Rahim is awesome. He’s so strong and kind. I like him so much.”
I smiled and set my phone aside.
A busy week of school and sports and gossiping passed. Sandy spent every spare moment she could with Rahim. They took breaks together, went for slushies together and biked away from school together every day.
Sandy texted me: “I know we are just friends, but Rahim is the guy I see with me for a long time.”
This was before.
The very next day after that text, Sandy saw a picture on social media of the bullied girl from the mall kissing Rahim on the cheek. In another picture, Rahim and mall-girl were sitting close to each other eating burgers and looking happy.
At this point, Sandy texted me: “How could I be so stupid. Rahim took advantage of a bullied girl and now is hanging with her.
He was only nice to her because she was so pretty. And all this week while he was hanging with me, he was also hanging out with this girl.
He must be one of those guys who needs lots of girlfriends to feel good about himself. I saw that in a movie last week.”
I rolled my eyes and turned off my phone.
Sandy does this all the time. Before the mall incident, Rahim is sweet and sensitive. After the mall, he’s the villain on a television show. Sandy is my friend and I’m going to have to talk with her about making assumptions. I need to tell her that mall-girl is Rahim’s cousin.
How a Town Made A Monster—True Story
Once upon a time, a mom and dad drove their little girl to school. Mom got out to walk the girl to the school door. Before they got there, Dad remembered something he had forgotten to ask the little girl. He rushed out and ran to the girl and Mom. Mom was upset. She said that they could talk about the question after school.
Dad disagreed and the two had a small argument on the school steps, which was very bad manners. The little girl started walking away. Her dad grabbed her arm and she quickly answered his question before running off to class.
Meanwhile, a woman in the parking lot saw the argument on the steps. She saw the dad grab his daughter’s arm. She went on social media and made a post: “I saw a man grab a little girl today at school. Watch out for your kids.”
Another parent saw the post and shared the post with his friends. They shared the post with their friends. Soon, everyone in the small town was thinking that a man was trying to kidnap their dear children.
Thinking that some evil man lurked near the school, people started seeing monsters everywhere! If a man stopped to drop off a sandwich for his son at recess, people would go online to post: “I saw a man try to grab a little boy.”
When another man ran up to his girl to give her the sweater she had left at home, people would post: “I saw the bad guy.” And all those posts bounced from cell phone to cell phone.
Before long, people went to the police and reported that a man was trying to steal kids from school. The story reached news reporters. A major television station reported that a man was stalking school kids. The stern announcer warned thousands of people to be on the lookout for this monster.
The police immediately started investigating. They interviewed many of the people who posted sightings of the evil man. The police talked to kids and their parents.
Then they made an official announcement: Nothing had happened. No one was trying to snatch children.
Hundreds of posts and reposts warned of a bad man, but none of the reports were true. No evil monster was trying to grab children from school. The monster was made up by too many people posting false details on social media.
Soon, the panic faded. People forgot about the evil man—and they did not seem to understand that they were the ones who made the monster.
This event really happened in Alberta, Canada, June, 2011.
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