Before you Share…

It’s a normal Tuesday and you’re scrolling Facebook. Everything has been going great today and you feel chipper. You’re happy for your cousin who’s pregnant again, you like the pic of that high school friend’s new puppy and you laugh at the ridiculous Star Wars meme.

The following post though, it ruins your day.

From a bag full of drowned kittens to the photographs of a car accident that killed three teens (still in the wreckage), to the remains of an aborted baby to assholes decapitating dogs – all of these have featured on my timeline in the past. And not because I put it there.

Then I’m not even counting the horrific accounts of racists killing people of another ethnic group, fanatics from one religion lining up and executing children from another religion, reports of a celebrity found dead, or – if you’re South African – accounts of politicians spewing hateful/intolerant/stupid stuff. Again, all things that featured on my timeline, shared by other folks, but this time, none of the above proved to be true.

Fake news and graphic content. Apparently, this is what the masses want to see.

This post is basically to ask, to beg, that you think before you share.

No, you don’t need to stop posting those things that will spark a discussion, or stop voicing your opinion. If you want to share stuff that you find hilarious but your grandma considers in bad taste, go ahead. Share the damn pineapple song (I WILL unfriend you 😛 ) or Gangnam Style or Friday or whatever floats your boat.

Just please, please, stop sharing hurtful, hateful or untrue content.

Why?

Well. You don’t know who is going to end up seeing what you’ve shared. I’m married to a chronic tab-leaver. At any given time, he has around ten tabs open on his computer (which is always on) and it’s basically a roll of the dice which tab will be the first thing you see when his PC un-sleeps. Wakes up? Whatever.

So, my three-year-old rolls on by, accidentally moves the mouse and up pops graphic content one of the hub’s friends shared, leaving me with the fantastic task of having to explain to her what she just saw. But she’s young, so she hasn’t really begun to connect the dots yet. What if the child was older? I pity the adults who have to deal with those situations.

You can tell me none of your friends have kids, so it’s safe. The truth is, not so much. Your security settings may make whatever you share open to the world, which means if your friend comments on your post, there’s a good chance all their friends will see it too, and so on. Point is, somewhere it’s going to impact someone in a negative way.

Obviously, these graphic posts don’t only affect kids. This kind of content often contains a plethora of trauma triggers for an enormous group of people who have suffered any kind of trauma. You may think sharing the remains of an aborted baby is gross, outrageous or whatever, but the mother who just had a miscarriage, the woman who has struggled for years to become pregnant, or the rape victim who had an abortion after the act – for them, this post may trigger a crying fit, dredge up all the feelings they’ve been trying to suppress, or even cause a panic attack.

Please consider that these graphic posts fall on many people like a punch in the gut and often results in days-worth of emotions to deal with, sleepless nights or depression. That may not sound like much to you, but as someone who’s suffered because of these posts, I promise you, it’s horrifying. And even when no panic attack is had, something upsetting will probably ruin the rest of your day.

As for the fake news, just because it’s usually text-based, don’t think these ‘articles’ can’t have the same result. For the most part, fake news has one goal – divide and conquer.

If we play up those things that make opposing groups angry with each other, we keep them from finding common ground. They continue to hate and their hate promotes the kinds of acts that become real news. Folks, it takes less than a minute to google the truth of an article or reputation of the site reporting.

If you do happen to share fake news – I’ve done this too – please be big enough to delete the original post. Don’t just leave it there after you learn the information is untrue, because the friends who see the post might not read the comments. They might be upset and share it too, so the cycle isn’t broken.

Where fake news is concerned, the moral of the story is this. If a post leaves you upset, angered or you have any kind of negative emotion, calm down a little before you act. Step away from the platform and google something like ‘is *news site* reputable’ or take the headline of the story, ‘kids killed in gas chamber by *religious group*’. You’ll find your answer in the first few search results. In fact, google may start predicting your text as you type, supplementing with words like ‘untrue’, ‘fake’ or ‘real?’ – usually a solid sign that something is fake.

Another thing – if the site has the words ‘true’, ‘real news’ or anything similar in the url, you’re almost always dealing with a fake report.

As for the graphic content, I don’t have answers. Personally, blocking the original poster, reporting the referring site (Facebook barely ever does anything) before unfriending the people who tend to share these horrible posts have only gotten me so far. Every now and then, these things pop up again and the unfriending continues.

Maybe ask yourself WHY you want to share it. As with the fake news, if your original reaction is outrage, the thing you want to share will probably extract the same emotion from the people who see the post on your timeline. Step away and consider the implications for a moment. If you’re certain blood splattered photographs won’t hurt anyone in your friend list, go ahead and share it. The truth is, you’ll never have that certainty.

If all you want to achieve is to have everyone reach your level of pissed-offedness (trust me, I’m a writer) there’s enough happening in the news – the REAL news – to get the results you want, but at least try to spread some positivity in this world and stop hurting others. As I said above, your feed doesn’t need to be rainbows and unicorn farts, as long as you’re not promoting intolerance with what you post or comment.

Lecture over.

Yolandie