Three Social Media Habits for a Better World

Editor’s Corner

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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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.”
  1. 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.

Top photo: Hand Ball Faces World Population, courtesy Geralt 9301.

Editor’s Corner posts at Shop Talk reflect the opinions of its authors and not necessarily those of The Chicago Manual of Style or the University of Chicago Press.

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Carol SallerCarol Saller, The Subversive Copy Editor, 2nd editionCarol Saller’s books include The Subversive Copy Editor and the young adult novel Eddie’s War. You can find Carol online at Twitter (@SubvCopyEd) and at Writer, Editor, Helper.

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4 thoughts on “Three Social Media Habits for a Better World

  1. I’d add, to check with a reputable fact-checking site to see if the information has already been reviewed and found to be either true or false. And I would have to agree with George Ernsberger, “too sane.”

  2. Excellent points – thanks for sharing them. I hope your next project will take on the problem of people at the highest levels of government who have forgotten the difference between serious work and babbling on social media.

    • I don’t want to sound like a complete jerk, and I suppose there’s no way to phrase this that will cause you to believe I’m not—but CMOS is not a political blog, nor are they the police for such things. This post gave sound advice on a few good guidelines, and your comment sort of falls under #3.

      In regards to the post itself, thank you, Ms. Saller! I’ve seen so much of the inflammatory sharing that falls under the #1 point that I’ve begun to speak out, even when the person sharing is a close friend. The only way for facts to be shared is to verify that they’re actual facts. It’s difficult to deal with, especially when I might agree with the viewpoint in general. I’ve shared this post in the hope that it might cause at least a few people to think a little more deeply.

  3. Well, as usual, too sane to have much chance of wide adoption. I didn’t see a single emoji! What were you thinking!?

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