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between our steps 12 05 18 doubleRunning through my news feed on Facebook, I came across a post that a friend had shared. It said that the hospice was in need of knitted or quilted lap blankets. I immediately shared this in a message to a member of my church suggesting this might be a good project for us. I then asked the friend who shared the post which hospice was asking. She didn't know.

I backtracked, tracing the person who had originally posted the request. Her page said she lives in Wisconson. A bit more searching confirmed that the hospice asking for lap blankets is in Madison, Wisconson.

That hospice thanked the community for 200 blankets. People in Madison had responded. But this was a post that had been shared over 900 thousand times. I wonder how many hospices had people show up with lap blankets saying they heard that these were needed. How many times did hospice workers say, "we didn't ask, but thank you, I guess." Or did people just hit "share" and let someone else do the knitting.

Social media is a useful place to share information and requests. But do we adjust our actions according to what we read there? When I was invited to an event, I used to hit "interested" before deciding if I could go. I knew that the more clicks, the more the post would stand out in people's news feed.

But when I posted an event, I thought the people who were  "interested" were thinking about coming. I never saw many of those who had claimed to be "interested." Now, I tend to share the event and only click "interested" if I actually might go. I will sometimes "tag" people when I share if I think it is particularily relevant. I will add a comment about why I am sharing.

I have no idea which of my patterns is better, but I am more aware of what I think I am doing. 

When a post provides information which is highly opininated, it is good to check the facts before we share it. During elections or heated community debates, there are some pretty inflamatory "memes" that get posted. Some of these get liked hundreds of times and shared a lot.

Here we need to remember the difference between social media and newspapers. A reporter checks their facts. The editor asks how clear the facts are before publishing. On social media, anyone can put together a picture of a sentence. No editor asks if they did their research. So before we hit share or even like, we should ask if this is true.

On-line media does broaden access and increase the breadth of news a community gets. Newspapers and radio take a lot of money to produce, so they may be conscious of not losing subscribers, listeners, and advertisers. The ownership also determines the slant that the news will take. Never is all the information provided. Always there is a perspective. On-line forums increase access and the perspectives available.

An on-line magazine like the Hub represents a healthy middle ground. Facts and tone are checked, yet because it is less expensive than traditional media, more perspectives are possible.

Another thing we know but sometimes forget is that an algorithm chooses what comes up in our news feed. Posts will appear that are similar to things we have liked in the past. Opposite opinions are unlikely to come our way.

This is somewhat true of ordinary life. We choose compatible friends who are likely to have similar opinions. But among our neighbours or in larger groups we do rub elbows with people who promote ideas very different from our own.

Although opposite opinion don't float past us, we can go looking. We can uncover what drives people different from ourselves. I have sometimes hit "search" to look for what people opposed to a position I hold are saying. I find it helpful to ponder what underlies ideas I find difficult and troubling.

I go to Facebook when I have time to fill. Often, I am hardly aware of what I am scrolling past. For the next while at least, I am going to try to pay more attention.

Cathy Hird lives on the shore of Georgian Bay.


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