It’s been 9 months since that fateful Friday in March when the world started to shut down in response to the Covid - 19 pandemic. It’s been 9 months, and we’re still living with the pandemic. There is hope of a vaccine on the very near horizon, but community spread, case numbers, and hospitalizations haven’t been slowing down in the US. Our whole lives have moved online as we try to do our part in limiting the spread. So how do we post responsibly during the pandemic so we don’t add to the anxiety, chaos, and stress that have overpowered the last 9 months? Here’s our advice.
Read Before Sharing
Never, never, never share an article before reading it. It’s easy to want to share something with a headline that supports our beliefs and opinions. It feels validating to see an article that agrees with what we’ve been thinking all along - but you must read the article before your thumb jumps to the share button. Everything you share you are essentially endorsing and saying, “I agree with this, and I approve of what is written.” If you haven’t read the article, you could be sharing beliefs that you don’t agree with but weren’t mentioned in the eye-catching headline. Take the time to read the whole article or don’t share at all. And before you click share, take the time to check out the sources and facts quoted in the article aka check your facts.
This step is just as important as reading the full article. We know you know this, but it's worth repeating: just because an article has been published online does not mean the article is accurate. A great resource to check facts in a non-political, non-partisan way is Snopes.com. Also, look into the bias of the news source you're reading. One of the most down the center, reliable news sources is The Associated Press. Check out this news bias chart that has been widely circulated during the pandemic to check where your favorite news source falls. And FYI - reading a bunch of Facebook posts written by people who agree with you is not checking your facts.
Don’t Gaslight Your Followers
If you have friends and family who are taking the pandemic more seriously than you, don't try to talk them out of it or belittle their fears - especially publicly online. If someone wants to only leave their home for grocery shopping, it's not your job to tell them that they're "living in fear" or "being a buzzkill". Maybe you've already had Covid and you spend time hanging out with a friend that has also had Covid, so you don't wear your masks around each other (please note that the data is still inconclusive about immunity after having Covid). When you post photos of the two of you on Instagram without your masks on, it makes your followers start to second guess their choice of wearing masks around their close friends.
Journalist Louis Pietzman was quoted in an article by Huffpost where he wrote about seeing maskless photos on social media: “If you do break social distancing, consider not posting photos of your group hang or your mask-free beach day. Not because you’ll get dragged — though you might! — but because of the effect it has on your followers ... My reaction to these photos is often anger, but buried under that’s a seed of doubt. I spend all day reading studies and tracking the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations and deaths, and STILL, I see enough maskless pics and think, maybe I’m the crazy one. It wears you down.”
Don’t Be Tone Deaf
We love authenticity online. Everyone knows that only sharing the cookie-cutter perfect moments of your life online is not the way to go - and it only adds to the negative spiral of social media. But at the same time, consider what complaints you share during this time carefully. Everyday people are taking to social media to share that loved ones are sick and/or dying from Covid. Do you really want your post complaining about not being able to go to the bar to pop up on someone's feed right after an obituary? By all means, share your thoughts and experiences, it's your platform, but consider how your post might look next to a serious Covid update, and then post accordingly. If you need to vent (which let's be real, we all do, it's been a tough 9 months), consider reaching out to a friend to get those "I miss normal" life feels off of your chest. You should absolutely allow yourself to mourn what you've lost this year, even not being able to go to the bar. But try to be sensitive about how you're processing those feelings online.
If You Can, Add Authentic Good
When you're deciding what to post, consider the emotional impact your post will have on your followers. If you can, try only adding authentic connections and positivity on social media. Let's be clear on what we mean by "positivity" because positivity can look like many different things, in our opinion. We definitely don't mean toxic positivity which looks like "cheer up! other people have it worse than you!", or "you have so much to be grateful for! just focus on the good!". Sometimes positivity can mean commenting your condolences on someone's post about a loved one passing. Or reaching out via DMs to someone who has been posting negative thoughts about themselves. By showing you care, you are having an authentic, positive impact. If you've been struggling with anxiety during the pandemic, but you've discovered some self-care tips or a great online therapy platform, consider sharing it with your followers! Posts like those help people see through the fog of social media highlights to realize that they aren't alone in their struggles. Use your platform for good, and you'll start to get more good out of social media yourself.
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