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The GW Hatchet

AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Column: Fact check your social media activism

Stop reposting the same misinformed infographic just because someone else did.

Social media platforms allow people to share news and their opinions, raise awareness of issues and access forums for discussion. And while many are quick to turn to social media to voice their opinion amid conflicts or injustices at home and abroad, in some cases, it may be better to hold off.

Social media activism can sometimes undermine itself. Pressuring people to take stances, spreading misinformation and engaging in performative activism fuels the spread of fake news and propaganda and sabotages the intent and goals behind posting in the first place.

From average people to influencers and massive corporations, anyone with a social media presence can feel pressure from their friends or followers to take a stance on a topical issue. That pressure is dangerous, though. Whether it comes internally from a fear of being left out or external demands to say something, the push to post can result in ignorant blanket statements that spread a skewed or even untrue perspective on the issue at hand.

In a perfect world, people would take the time to research and fact check what they’re posting. Social media means that each of us can create and share news, but not everyone takes the time or has the drive to act responsibly. What seems like an informative infographic can just nicely packaged misinformation — a handful of Instagram slides can’t explain the nuances of centuries-old conflicts.

Social media doesn’t just deliver falsehoods. It can foster hate between people whose perspectives on or relationships to an issue differ. This is because when people, especially people with larger platforms like celebrities and influencers, share extremist viewpoints or fragmented pieces of a story, their audiences consume and often internalize these messages without realizing that what they are consuming is fake news.

For example, Justin Bieber recently reposted a post with the message “Praying for Israel” against the backdrop of a photo of a destroyed city. However, the city in the photo was the Gaza Strip. In 2021, celebrities like Nicki Minaj were quick to post false claims regarding vaccines and their potential side effects that their followers then used to protest the vaccine. This is all to show that social media is great at making information more accessible to the everyday reader — but not every single issue can or should be understood through social media, nor should it be posted about if it is not properly read about first.

The world is not just black or white or good versus bad, and forcing people to take a stance defeats the very purpose of engaging in healthy discussion on social media. The ability to access multiple perspectives is built into these platforms, and tapping into them can help us gain a more holistic view of an issue — especially when we can hear what people are dealing with firsthand. That’s what we need more of, not reposting the same misinformed infographic just because someone else did.

If you have an issue that you care deeply about, you absolutely can and should post about it. But the next time you post or ask someone else to, ask: Is this information factual and representative of the whole story? Is the information I am posting harmful to me or others? Do I know enough about this issue to be taking a public stance on it? Is the person I am asking to post also educated on the issue I am asking them to post about? 

Social media is powerful, but it is up to us not to abuse it. Let’s have the integrity to hold ourselves and others accountable for the information we share.

Anaya Bhatt, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is an opinions writer.

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