Last week there were was a bit of controversy surrounding Coachella after a story broke that this year’s headliner Ariana Grande, got paid double last year’s showstopper, Beyonce.
Given that Bey’s Homecoming documentary had just debuted days earlier on Netflix, this made the allegations of her not being well compensated even more appalling.
By Friday afternoon, passionate think pieces about Black women in business, lack of pay equity with our white female counterparts were racing around the internet. The discussions were heated, the comments sections were full of disgust, and the story that sparked all of this outrage… was fake.
In a world where Donald Trump has made mistrusting the media both a propaganda talking point and a self-fulfilling prophecy, we don’t need to give people like him a real reason to scream “Fake News” more than he already does.
So for the sake of making sure we share responsibly, below is a list of 5 things you need to keep in mind before reposting anything to your timeline.
Check your sources
This is such an obvious first step and yet for some reason tends to be a last resort for many. When you see a story that seems juicy or just plain outrageous, always check your sources.
Then ask yourself, “Is it from a reputable news site or from a random blog?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found a story that only exists on exist on obscure sites run by God knows who, yet are being shared repeatedly on my timeline as fact based reporting. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, your cousin’s webpage isn’t CNN, pham.
Sources matter. And I say this not because ‘the voice of the people’ doesn’t have a place, but simply because established media sites have a legal obligation to vet their stories or risk getting sued, or even worse — losing stock in the court of public opinion. That added incentive makes them a lot less likely to be as sloppy as a layperson sharing hearsay.
Try to debunk it
Once you find a story on a major site, the buck doesn’t stop there. Unfortunately, because the world now functions on a 24-hour news cycle, sometimes even major sites get it wrong, or present incomplete information on stories that are still developing.
That’s why I always take the mindset of a cynic before sharing anything. I see what several sites are saying, then take a look at what chatter is taking place on social media, before jumping to form any opinions of my own.
In the case of the Ariana Grande vs Beyonce Coachella fakery, it literally took me under a minute to pull up three articles on that story and the third one clearly debunked the controversy, explaining that Beyonce got $4 million for each (of the two) Coachella weekends she performed, meaning they both received $8 million.
Google isn’t the be all end all, but it certainly is your friend. Before you share something salacious and go on a tangent of righteous indignation, at least dedicate a few minutes of your time to make sure the dragons you’re slaying are real.
Timing is everything
Another thing to note is this knee jerk desire we all harbor (in varying degrees) to be in the know, and/or be “first” to share some shocking bit of news on our feeds. It sounds silly, but because lay people are now empowered to create and generate content almost as much as professional journalists, many of us get a bit of a high from being one of the first people to share “breaking news” to our loyal followers.
But that rush to report is coming at the risk of accuracy, and creating an angry mob mentality that is often premature and creates more confusion than advocacy.
I’m not gonna name any names but…how many times in the last six months alone have we seen the public have a huge reaction to a perceived slight within hours of an incident, only to find out days later that things weren’t what they initially seemed?
Be it accusations of racism, homophobia, sexual assault, pay inequity etc these are all pretty complex social issues that at the very least demand we all pause and take a breath before spouting out any angry tangents to the masses.
In fact, by Saturday, many of the people who wrote those scathing Beyonce vs Ariana posts had to write retractions or make major edits to save face. They may have skipped all that had they just waited a bit.
Be careful with language
As a continuation of my last point, even when you think you have a good grasp on what’s happening in a breaking story or controversy, always be very careful with your language and leave room for discovery. Be wary of speaking in absolutes until all the facts have been presented, particularly in the early days of a potentially viral scandal
For example, when the Jussie Smollett case first broke, I saw a lot of people making homophobic comments about Smollett masked as skepticism. And so when I would speak up in these incidents I intentionally said things like, “Whether his story is true or not, your language about the LGBT community is problematic.”
Infusing this simple — but thoughtful — bit of nuance into the way you share information not only covers your own butt, it also creates a dynamic where the people around you are being challenged to perhaps do the same and avoid being social media alarmists.
Doubt means don’t
Last but not least, if you aren’t sure about a story or think it’s too early to have an informed opinion, then it may be shocking to hear this but — that’s probably a sign that you don’t need to post about it.
I know we’ve all convinced ourselves that the whole world is fascinated by what we ate that day, how many sit ups we did at the gym, or what we think of current events, but unless sharing the news is actually your job — it’s okay to pick your battles.
I write opinion pieces for a living and even I refrain from speaking up about every drama that comes across my feed. In fact, it’s been my experience that the first 24 hours of most major stories is like a swap meet of rumors, speculation and conspiracy theories, and it’s usually not till the next day or so that the dust clears to make way for the facts.
So in a nutshell: chill out pham.
Make sure you have receipts before dragging anyone on these internet streets. Or you risk looking like that alleged Beyhive member, who (perhaps high off the fumes of “fake news”) decided to hit Ariana Grande in the chest with a lemon at Coachella on Sunday… for no real reason.
Let’s not be that guy. Ever.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric