Practicing Social Distancing *ON* Social Media

In this post I’m going to talk about my experience with Facebook but feel free to mentally substitute your favorite social media platform. Facebook serves several positive uses for me. It also has a lot of negatives. I would gladly move to Diaspora*, MeWe, or Mastodon if I could only get y’all to move with me!

What I do want to see are posts about:

  • How you are feeling
  • How you are doing
  • How you are coping
  • How you are finding meaning
  • The challenges you are facing
  • What help you need
  • What help you can give
  • How you are staying connected
  • Your art
  • Your thoughts
  • What is important to you
  • What you are learning from this situation
  • How you want things to change as we recover from this time of pandemic
  • Pictures of your cat, dog, ferret, lizard, duckling, houseplant, etc. (I’d add baby pictures but they can’t consent, so parents need to make that decision for themselves)
  • Pictures of your travels or a great sunrise or sunset or flowers, etc.

What I don’t want to see are:

  • Ads or, euphemistically, “sponsored posts” (yeah, yeah, I know, ads make it free blah blah blah)
  • White supremacist and racist B.S.
  • Capitalism and colonialism apologetics
  • Fear-mongering
  • Bad information

Et cetera, ad nauseum!

On those last two points, I see a lot of misinformation and disinformation floating around on Facebook around the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. I am only seeing it because y’all (my Facebook friends) are re-sharing it. (Okay, okay, I’ve done it, too.)

One aspect is unavoidable: the situation is evolving in a way that something that was true (or at least current) a week ago – heck, two days ago! – is now out of date, wrong, or contradicted. (I had to change something as I was writing for this post based on new information from yesterday!)

Some posts intended to be calming can send the wrong message to others. E.g. “Hey, COVID-19 only affects older people! It’s no big deal.” That’s not very comforting for us “older people”.

Some “how you can avoid it” and “I ate/drank/smoked this and I didn’t get it” posts are dangerously wrong. Sure, we want to boost our immune systems and avoid contracting it but there are no silver bullets or sure-fire preventatives or cures yet. This is a stochastic situation, numbers and percentages situation. You can’t really eliminate the possibility of getting it but you can reduce your chances of getting it and – arguably more importantly – avoid spreading it.

I am trying to stick to primary sources for my information. Yeah, that means I probably won’t read that link to a four-times-copied-and-reshared story purportedly from someone who wants to remain anonymous. That just doesn’t carry much authority with me. Likewise for posts that aren’t anonymous but, as far as I can tell, no one that I know actually knows the originator or can confirm their qualifications. Sorry, not information.

Sharing links to sites from reputable sources that get updated regularly is actually useful information. I watch the official COVID-19 page from the health officials in my county (coronavirus-SD.com). Find your local source and follow that. They seem to be on Facebook and Twitter as well if that’s your preferred notification method. WHO is another good source. (The CDC has some good information and will hopefully be a good information source in the future once it’s out from under the thumb of The Impeached One (and his enablers) and the anti-science funding restrictions of the Republican-impacted Congress.)

On the other hand, sharing a link to a static news article from last week about the number of cases in some other part of the county might give me mere data (about last week) but it is not relevant or useful information to me now. Check the dates. Facebook likes to bring up old posts so check it before you spread it.

Speculation about the origin, spread, or effects of the disease needs to go through a thorough vetting process. A link to a scientifically valid, peer-reviewed study is best. An accurate, no-hype translation of that study (with links to the study itself) is useful. A breathless, terror-inducing, worst-case-scenario (or completely wrong) interpretation of that study is just stupid. So is passing on every rumor before a study is done (if one is ever done). Don’t spread stupid.

On the other hand – and this is tricky – there are some official warnings coming out that are err-on-the-side-of-caution advice based on preliminary information with significant chance of avoiding bad outcomes. E.g. several organizations have issued warnings saying don’t take NSAIDs to fight the fever when you (might) have COVID-19. Since there are other things you can use instead (e.g. Tylenol) you could switch just to be on the safe side. However, it appears that as of this writing those warnings may not have been the right advice.

If everyone takes a moment to assess the usefulness and truthfulness of a post or comment and decides not to hit that send button if it’s not good information then we will all have have a calmer, more useful Facebook feed!

And, if I can get you to join me on MeWe, etc., maybe we can break the Facebook stranglehold.

WT:social – a New Social Network (Maybe)

WT:social is a potential alternative to Facebook. It is nowhere near viable yet. In fact, the only way to actually use it now is to pay for a monthly subscription. WT stands for Wiki Tribune, an old project of one of the co-founders of Wikipedia, now being repurposed as an ad-free social network. I signed up on the off-chance/hope that it eventually becomes available to all users.

Sign up with me. Click my friend or family link as appropriate and sign up. And then we’ll wait to see if it takes off.

Financial Times article about WT:social.

My Friends link

My Family link