One of my connections just wrote a post about fact-checking on FaceBook. In their opinion, people shouldn’t bother because it’s a social site meant for fun. I left a comment, but I thought it was a topic worth expanding on.
Now I don’t expect the world to take on my personal values, but I do share because I want people to think. For me, I don’t find it acceptable to spread misinformation anywhere for any reason. Regardless of whether it’s real life, a writing site, your blog or a social network, I believe that it is our personal responsibility to only spread truth, to the best of our ability. I believe that we should fact-check before we share things with other people.
I make it a point to fact-check anything I see, to the best of my ability, if I intend to share it with anyone, in person or online. I don’t want to share something then find out it was false, faulty or a lie. Sometimes I make mistakes, but for the most part I take steps to ensure that I only share the truth. If something is purely opinion that’s different, but if it’s claiming to be fact, I try to make sure it really is. I also have no trouble correcting other people when I see that they’re spreading untrue or misleading things.
Some say “no harm done” in regards to spreading hoaxes and inaccurate misinformation. I disagree. I think it does do harm. Any time lies, half-truths or inaccuracies are spread, they affect the minds and lives of more people. They reach even further. People will act and think in different ways based on the information they take in. Even if it’s just a seemingly silly thing like being able to tell the gender of a pepper by its lobes, it still breeds false thought and action in others.
Some people find my values, and how I act on them, annoying, but this is my life and these are my ethical guidelines. Being a good, honest person is important to me. If I share misinformation I feel that I am partly responsible for any effect it has. I took something untrue and brought it to more people. That’s not good. That’s not the kind of person I am.
I’m not saying that people who don’t fact check are necessarily bad people. I just hold myself personally accountable for what I say and share. I have a personal problem with the laziness people exhibit online when sharing things. It makes me think of that commercial where the girl says that if it’s posted online it must be true. Not so. And I don’t think it matters if the misinformation was created accidentally or deliberately or if it’s just no longer applicable. It’s on me to make sure that what I share with others is as true as I can know it to be.
I encourage people to take a minute to do a quick search before sharing things online. Even if your friend posted it, they might not have checked it first. It takes so little time, and you can feel better in the knowledge that you’re not sharing inaccurate or untrue information with other people. But everyone has the right to do as they see fit. For me, I’m going to maintain my personal accountability and always be careful of what I share in person and online.