The Grandmother Problem

With great power comes great responsibility, and the internet has definitely definitely become one of the biggest and most influential powers of the 21st century. With the ability to have a message reach thousands and even millions in a matter of seconds, sharing with care is becoming increasingly more important each and every day.

Knowing the credibility and relevance of the information we share and understanding the impact it may have on those who encounter it is crucial when it comes to responsibly using the internet. So, how do we address that incredibly conservative aunt that continuously shares scare tactic headlines to their Facebook timeline? Or, how do we address our Twitter obsessed friend that often finds themselves sharing breaking news from months or even years ago without checking the dates?

Policing the relevancy or credibility of our friends and family’s social media content isn’t always well received, but it is necessary if we want to encourage responsible sharing and it can be done in a productive manner. I believe that one of the most useful ways to encourage others to share with care in a way that does not jeopardize the relationship is to communicate offline about it.

More often than not, comments can be misconstrued over the internet. Although you may have intended to point out your friend’s error in a constructive way, it can easily be taken as a critique or interpreted as insulting. Rather than embarrassing someone publicly by pointing out their error to all, attempt to speak in person or in private messages about what concerns you. There is nothing noble about pointing out someone’s mistakes for all to see, and others are much more apt to listen if approached respectfully.

In addition to this, spreading knowledge is essential for growth. Sharing false or misleading information online is so easy because there is a plethora of it. If you know of more credible sources that may align with the person’s interests or beliefs, share these sources with them. Sometimes the case is that others just don’t know where to gather information from aside from social media, which perpetuates the circulation of false or misleading information.

Above all else, person to person communication and the sharing of knowledge is really what is going to help lighten the impact the grandmother problem and stop the spread of bad news. Communicating in a manner that is respectful and knowledgable is going to be taken with more consideration, and has the ability to help others learn how to spot credible information online. It may sound like a simple solution, but I really believe it is the answer we are looking for.