The Grandmother Problem

This week, I’m breaking away from allergy information for a bit and discussing something called “The Grandmother Problem”: the tendency to post misleading but usually well-intentioned content on social media without vetting it first. Usually, this happens with older people, but it can certainly be relevant to younger ones as well. Like most, I’ve seen my fair share of “cringey” posts on social media from friends and family members that clearly came from disreputable sources and were spreading inaccurate information. The big question is, how do we talk to our friends and loved ones about this issue without causing unnecessary hurt on either side?

Firstly, it’s important to make sure the other person knows that you’re not attacking them or their character by bringing this to their attention. Assure them that you care for them and you are letting them know about your concern because you care. Go into the conversation assuming that they are doing their best and try to be respectful while educating them.

Secondly, let them know of the potential dangers of sharing false and harmful information. They might not understand the full scope of what they’re posting or they’ve been led to believe half-truths due to previous media consumption. Try to unravel this by asking them where they’re coming from and why they believe the information they’re sharing.

Third, offer them resources. If you’ve had any training in media literacy, mention it (unless you have an aunt who’s skeptical of college educations–then you might leave that out). Share some websites that have helped you in the past and, if need be, show the person how to use them.

Here is an example of an opening message you might send to this person:

Hi (name)! I saw your latest post on Facebook about the presidential candidate debate. You might not realize this, but the article came from a site that has a long history of slamming candidates that they don’t agree with and not presenting both sides of the argument fairly. It can be really challenging to vet this stuff, but I use websites like Snopes to help me out. If you have questions about an article, feel free to send it over to me and I can help you figure out if it’s legitimate or not. Hope you’re doing well! 

Hopefully these tips can get you started on sharing media literacy with others!

Until next time,