Are you angry about something that happened in the world? In politics? In — WHAT USED TO BE — your favorite Chipotle? Your first instinct is likely to post about it on social media, because that’s what we do now. Therapy is expensive, attention is both fleeting and yearned-for, and Blaceblook was designed to hurl your thoughts and feelings upon unsuspecting friends and family.
Luckily, if you think the internet is a nightmarish cesspool of misinformation and otter videos (OK, those are fine), you can play a role in making it better. How? I went to someone deep in the dark trenches of social media for advice and found Victoria McCullough, head of social impact at Tumblr.
McCullough explained how to give yourself a social media makeover — specifically with regard to how you talk politics.
- Don’t make your message all about Trump. Or, you know, the politician you happen to be most angry at — maybe it’s not Trump! (It’s probably Trump.) Focus on the particular issue or event you want to say something about. “Your anger has got to be rooted in fact,” McCullough says, “and fighting the policy and actual issues at hand.”
- Give your followers something tangible to do. The more specific activities or actions you can recommend — a town hall to attend! A specific call to make to a representative! An article to read! A petition to sign! — the better. You don’t want to leave your followers confused and angry; you want to leave them motivated and directed.
- Don’t unfriend the people you disagree with. Seriously. That’s how people end up in information echo chambers. In fact, McCullough actually recommends following groups or pages that people you disagree with follow — to understand the finer points of why they hold stances different from yours, and the messaging around those stances. Yep, that might mean following … Breitbart.
- Know, patronize, and share from reputable news sources. Some questions to ask before you share a story or video: Is this from a real journalistic outfit? (Here’s how to tell.) Does the journalist who wrote it seek opinions from sources on both sides (or even better, many sides) of the issue? Is this is an opinion piece or analysis, and if so, are you clearly identifying it as such? Your followers will be more likely to take you seriously if you acknowledge when something presents one side of an argument — even if makes a compelling case.
- Call out fake news — privately. If you see someone sharing something that is not from a reputable source (especially if it’s outright false), you should send them a message documenting its inaccuracy. “All of us should feel more empowered in this environment to step up and nicely tell [a social media contact] that a post is not real,” McCullough says.
- Step away from the keyboard. If you feel the urge to rant (look, we all have feelings) pretend you’re in a bar fight and take it outside. No, I don’t mean punch someone in the street — just don’t post anything on social media or anywhere else. Get offline and find another activity to channel your energy. Could I suggest kickboxing?