Social Media can be noisy and informative, full of connections and tribes.
Increasingly it's a source of misinformation, radicalization, and polarization
How do we navigate social media in a healthy way?
Let's explore some questions we can ask to understand narratives better
Who benefits from this narrative?
Influencers/social celebrities don't exist just for lifestyle brands.
They also exist in activism, podcasting, politics, etc.
Social media is driven on attention, and getting attention equates to power, validation, and/or money, much like any other type of celebrity
Is the poster an expert on this topic?
It's not unusual to see an expert step outside of their expertise. It happens, and it's ok many times.
But we need to be aware of it, and adjust our confidence accordingly.
Does the post generalize, or exaggerate in order to fit a narrative?
This is common in activism and politics.
It can be challenging to explain human issues, and frustrating to see little traction on matters you care about. But being cynical and disconnecting is a privileged response.
Exaggerating for effect and attention harms the goal, and often creates disillusioned and uninformed followers long-term, in exchange for short-term attention and outrage.
Does this post encourage me to be better, or tell me I'm better than others already?
...Feeling like a good person who is specifically good because they are better than someone else is super seductive, because it means you don't have to do anything to be good. You get to feel better about yourself just by looking at how awful other people are...
Does this post disparage others, punch down on those without power, or play into biases and stereotypes that disparage others?
Does the post encourage me to feel morally, economically, physically, or mentally superior to another group?
This is the even darker cousin of the previous item. It's when we build our self-image by shitting on the traits of others. Usually traits we had little to no control over ourselves. Even if you dislike a person for the harm they cause, disparaging them for their traits like weight, age, orientation, intelligence, education, disability, or economic situation makes us the ones perpetuating harm.
Does this post use emotional appeal alone to create a divide between me and others, or reinforce my current ideas?
Emotional appeal is important when we talk about human issues. Especially in some of the most dire social ills, where institutional failures extend to not even capturing sufficient data about the problems. Narratives and appeals to emotion are all that's left to bring focus to the issue. But we must be careful when it's used exclusively. Especially when it's used not to describe a problem, but demand a specific solution.
Does this post use fear to reinforce divisions or reinforce my current ideas?
Fear is one of the most powerful human motivators. When it is combined with ignorance, it can manifest as hate, anger, or callous indifference to the plight of others. Our default in the face of ignorance must be tolerance and empathy whenever possible. It is the foundation of stable societies.