The importance of checking your sources during social media ‘drama’

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Social media drama

God, it feels like a week doesn’t go by without something kicking off on social media right now! Whether it’s an influencer being accused of heavily editing their pictures or a brand’s CEO being exposed for holding racist views, the scandals seem to be coming thick and fast, and while it’s easy to jump on an ‘outrage bandwagon’, most times I think it’s best to pause and and observe before contributing to the frenzy.

I like to think that most of us are good people, so when somebody paints themselves as the victim of trolling, or online abuse, our natural instinct is to defend them. We want to believe that nice, charming people are also honest and truthful but sometimes they’re not. So, when it comes to scandals online (as much as we want to form our opinions based on how likeable people are) I think we really need to put more weight on the quality and credibility of our sources.

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Why do I trust this person’s opinion?

I think this is a really important question to ask ourselves when we’re reading an ‘expose’ article/tweet/Instagram story or response to drama. If your reasons behind trusting someone’s opinions are that they’re a nice person or that others are agreeing with them, then I would have a re-think. Just because a certain opinion is gaining traction, or a person is helpful/charming, they’re not automatically right.

For example, if a company was exposed for using animal products while marketing themselves as vegan-friendly. The company’s response explaining away the accusations as ‘slander’ should be taken with a pinch of salt, whereas the independent tests on the materials to deem whether or not they are vegan should be trusted. Taking everything at face value and trusting people based on their personalities, especially when we’re not an expert on a situation, can leave us vulnerable to being manipulated and when people’s careers are at stake we really need to take responsibility for what we amplify on our own platforms.

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What does this person have to gain from people believing them?

Again, I think this is something that’s really important to consider when we see scandals (and people’s responses to them) online. In most situations, the best person to trust is an independent expert. Someone with enough knowledge of the situation to form an educated opinion on it, but without a financial incentive to attacking/defending someone’s business.

For example, if a web developer is accused of stealing someone else’s code and selling it as their own custom templates, I’m more likely to trust a coder who can check if the code is stolen than their bestie who is doing the rounds defending them on social media and telling worried customers that the accusations are just slander. Of course, if the only person verifying the accusations was a direct competitor, and others with knowledge of code spoke out and defended the web developer I may join in with the defence of them (because I just can’t stand to see someone’s business be attacked for no reason!) But if everyone with knowledge of code is confirming that the accusations are true, I have to trust that they are.

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Make sure you’re not contributing to a false narrative

Opinions can be formed quickly online, so if you’re not an expert in a situation I honestly wouldn’t say anything (or retweet/like anything) until you have heard from both sides and analysed how expert your sources are (and what they potentially have to gain from being right). Nothing annoys me more than people who tweet ‘I don’t know anything about Xxx, but Xxx is so lovely and helpful I have to defend them!’

Contributing to the situation by defending someone ‘just because’ really doesn’t help things, especially if rumours/accusations turn out to be true! We don’t always have to contribute to a situation, there’s nothing wrong with sitting it out and waiting to see where the dust falls. It’s better to be safe than sorry, because there’s nothing worse than having to hastily backtrack when you’re called out for being wrong.

Photography by Fifi Newbery