Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Should I speak up when I see something offensive or false on social media?; Guardian, June 14, 2017

Emma Brockes, Guardian; 

Should I speak up when I see something offensive or false on social media?

"Q: When someone posts something offensive or factually wrong on my social media feed, how obliged am I to wade in and correct them?

A: There are words and aphorisms to describe doing nothing in the circumstance to which you refer. “Bystander syndrome” is one, the phenomenon of witnessing an attack, verbal or physical, and standing passively by. When I was at college, spotty men wielding clipboards would loiter outside the dining room on the day of student elections, informing their uninterested peers that “apathy led to the rise of Hitler”. These days, we are more likely to reach for a line sometimes attributed to the philosopher Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”...
Then there is the moral argument: that if you happen upon, say, a racist opinion, you have an obligation to counter it. I find this one trickier. Whereas in a social setting, you are personally implicated when someone says something obnoxious, on social media, no one is addressing you personally. From a practical point of view, ignoring low-rent opinions from users without many followers seems more sensible than berating them and bringing them to wider attention.
But of course, where’s the fun in that? Correcting people has become recreational. There have been times, over the last few years, when I have had to sit on my hands not to post on Facebook when one of my relatives shared a piece from the Express about Brexit, every single line of which was wrong. Perhaps I should have told them. But I stopped myself because I knew that my intention was not to enlighten or to open debate, but to shame them for being idiots. I wanted them to feel bad.
In any case, finding out how people arrive at their opinions can be a better way to counter them than telling them to shut up. There is no obligation to wade in on social media because there is no obligation to be on social media in the first place. But if you do, bear in mind there is more than one way to do it. And then ask yourself why you want to in the first place."

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