You are responsible for every meme you share.
Each week for a year, I’m designing a shirt and releasing it on my Threadless store. This is the design for week 35.
The school shooting in Florida this week was heartbreaking. Heartbreaking because of the loss of life. Heartbreaking because this keeps happening and no one acts to try and prevent it from happening again. Heartbreaking because I send my wife — a teacher — and three kids to school every day and pray that they are never placed in harm's way.*
In the aftermath of the shooting, social media was … chaos. I know that friends were hurting and angry like I was. They wanted to make a point that something has to change. I get it, and yet, many of them were retweeting things that were false or exaggerated. Bogus stats. Exaggerated claims. Speculation.
Gun advocates were rushing to similarly harshly drawn conclusions. Recommending “solutions” like arming teachers. Tweeting and retweeting false or inflammatory statements — anything they could do to shift the blame towards something other than the American gun culture.
And as if that wasn’t enough chaos, Russian bots jumped into the fray stirring up trouble in their own way.
Here’s the thing, though. When you push false or hastily checked information, your side in the debate suffers. Even if you are mostly right, the minute you stop offering facts and a path forward, you lose credibility.
Retweeting — or sharing on Facebook — information that you don’t know is true, but you want to be true… it does more harm than good. You are as responsible for the things you retweet as the posts your write yourself. When you share something, you personally endorse that you believe it. So spend a few minutes researching before you hit the retweet button.
Twitter and Facebook reward the quick retweet or share.** They are designed to allow you to react with minimal thought. Don’t fall for it. Don’t feed the outrage machine — there’s enough to genuinely be outraged by. Think and help advance the discussion, because something has to change and we have to get there together.
* Heartbreaking because I know the feeling of fear that comes with a lockdown. I’ve been in a active shooter situation twice in the last five years. Once at the University of South Carolina because of a murder-suicide. And once with my entire family at a local mall when there was an apparent shooting.
** I'm beginning to appreciate Manton's hesitation in introducing reposting to Micro.Blog.
Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. He's currently in the middle of a project to design a new shirt a week for an entire year. Follow Bob on Twitter, Instagram and Micro.Blog.