For the purposes of this post, let’s presume
- that viral posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms do have influence, and
- that the world would be better if people considered more carefully and more often the opposing point of view.
If you agree, consider three sharing practices that will reduce the amount of careless shouting online. Good copyeditors have the skills to implement these steps almost effortlessly.
Read entirely anything you share before you share it.
Sharing someone else’s work indicates that you’re willing to own it. Skimming a post and clicking Share without knowing exactly what’s in it is irresponsible. And if it’s TLDR for you, do you honestly expect others to read it?
Evaluate the quality with professional scrutiny.
- Is it anonymous? Not a deal-killer, but it raises the question of why the writer is not willing to stand behind their words.
- Is the date obscured? Throwbacks are sometimes worth repeating, but a post written in one time context can mislead in a new one.
- Are credible sources listed and linked to? If not, is the post labeled “Opinion”?
- Does the writer engage in name-calling? It doesn’t have to be abusive and hateful to disqualify in my view. Loaded phrases like “knee-jerk” or “snowflake” say “us versus them,” not “let’s talk.”
Ask yourself “How does this help?”
- Does the language invite everyone into the dialogue, or does it blame and vilify those with opposing views?
- Does it regrind familiar arguments, or does it offer a new analysis or information that can serve as grist for conversation or action?
For me, that third command is the most challenging to implement. When someone passionately and eloquently summarizes my own feelings, I can’t wait to promote the rant. But now I’m resolving to ask first whether it will promote outreach or compromise or understanding—and not just add to the babble that defines and affirms an entrenched faction.
Editor’s Corner posts are the opinion of Carol Fisher Saller, editor of the Chicago Manual of Style Online Q&A and author of The Subversive Copy Editor, now in its 2nd edition. Find Carol on Facebook and Twitter (@SubvCopyEd).
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