Sharing without pausing for thought risks making fools of us – as individuals and as communities.
Critical consumption in internet use (crap detection as Howard Rheingold puts it) is a skill, or literacy, citizens of the web have been honing for years. We have build good habits – wondering about the provenance of data in a blog post, who is behind a campaigning website, checking the edit history of a Wikipedia article before we trust its accuracy.
Take the case of Kim Stafford. An act of fancy dress satire leads to online mob-bullying of a student by people who take her lampooning of Tea Party types.
People think they know what they are seeing, think that the context is the conversation. The thing about mobs is if you’re not alert to your actions and intentions, you don’t necessarily know you are part of one.
Uncritical sharing, guileless passing on of memes and stories online doesn’t just matter in extreme cases like this – it’s an everyday affair.
We see the image, and pass judgement and share before we really know what is going on. News organisations have struggled with with the tension between immediacy and truth as news breaks for years – increasingly it also a matter of individual responsibility and perhaps reputation.
People – friends, colleagues and connections alike – think less of someone, pay less attention to them, turn down the volume if their judgement is continually off the mark in what they say and share online.
We have all felt that pang of embarrassment, mixed in with surprise and a little annoyance, when someone we thought was intelligent re-posts a dismal listicle, urban myth or ridiculous scare story. Sometimes a little gentle mocking in reply, or a discreet correction will help them realise their error.
You are what you share?