Help Stamp Out PWI*

*Posting While Irresponsible

This is as close to politics as I’m going to get. One of the reasons I steer clear is that I apply logic, reason, and critical thinking to what’s said by people on both sides… In other words, I tick off everybody. <wg>

But right now, with emotions running so high, I am seeing so much PWI (Posting While Irresponsible) that I feel the need to plant my flag on the mount of logic, reason, and critical thinking.

Each of us has a responsibility – as citizens of the world, as adults, as rational beings – to be factual and accurate.

Tweets are not facts. Facebook posts are not facts. Blogs are not facts. “There are reports” are not facts (and shame, shame, shame on the media for using them. I’ve only seen it on cable TV news shows so far, and shame on them.)

I dug into two of those “there are reports,” each of which reflected badly on one of the parties. I’m not going to go into details – because it’s too easy to focus on the emotion of the reports rather than on the process – but one was refuted by official sources and the only citations for the other was the cable TV news show that had used the “there are reports that blah, blah, blah” line. In other words, it was a classic echo chamber.

That’s what happens with so much of this. Only YOU can stop echo chambers. (Yes, I’m stealing the line from Smokey the Bear.)

Otherwise these inaccuracies, garbled half-truths, and some outright lies will echo forever in the Tweets and FB posts of those who are not responsible, who want to make their point at any cost, and, yes, are fearful. Because fear drives the extremes on both sides.

Please, please, please don’t add to this.

Before you pass anything on, consider what it means if it’s not true. Each of us can do so much harm if we don’t act responsibly.

I have no expectation that this will reach the most strident on either side. It’s hard to think while you’re shouting. But I hope it will encourage others to pause, to think.

What can you do?

  • Apply critical thinking to everything you read or hear. Read and listen to multiple sources, especially including those that present views you don’t hold. Challenge everything that is presented to you.
  • Apply a hefty dose of skepticism to everything you read or hear, especially the things that march in step with what you already thought. If what’s running through your mind is, “I knew it! I just knew it!” that is a loud warning bell that you are in danger of stepping into an echo chamber. Step back. Take a deep breath, follow the other steps here.
  • Consider the source. Many of these “reports” start from people or groups who are busy grinding their axes. Google and look back for the earliest mention of the report. Check if this is where secondary reports got their “facts.” Look at that primary site/source. Consider if it appears to be professional and balanced or fomenting and one-sided.
  • Do not pass on anything until it has BOTH been thoroughly vetted by credible, preferably primary sources and passed your critical thinking challenge.
  • Recognize that “your” side can be as misleading and irresponsible as the other. Sorry to burst your bubble.
  • Know that passing something on with qualifiers like “I heard this” or “I don’t know if this is true, but” is as dangerous as passing things on as facts. Most readers and listeners automatically strip out the qualifiers and hear only the “juicy” part … which is what they then pass on. Adding to the echo chambers.

Battle fear with reason and accuracy.

4 Responses to “Help Stamp Out PWI*”
  1. Kay Coyte says:

    My niece, a TV reporter who also recently wrote, directed and produced a short documentary on the Underground Railroad in NYC, posted a similar request on Facebook. As part of that, she cited a Huffington Post article on this same theme. In addition to many of your points above, they added this:

    3. Watch out for recycled stories. One thing that seems to be feeding into the misinformation problem is when old stories are being presented as happening now. Check the date on the story before you read on. You’ll be shocked to see how many are from another time and aren’t applicable to the current event you thought they were talking about.

    (I saw one of these yesterday; a killing that took place on Halloween night was posted to make a post-election violence point.)

    I’d also add: it’s getting harder in newspapers and online to tell commentary from straight news. I wish opinion pieces were better labeled. But be careful when you see a headline that says “CNN: xxx” or “Chicago Tribune: xxx” It doesn’t mean the newspaper is agreeing with what’s being stated, often that’s just a shorthand lead-in to a sometimes very strongly biased opinion piece.

  2. Ginger Napier says:

    I have been your series, “Dead in Wyoming,” and have truly enjoyed the first 2 and am now on to #3. I just read your PWI blog and wish that it could be published in a way that everybody could read it. There are so many things I could say, but in the end you said it far better than I could. I will continue to read what you write and heartily encourage all that I know to do the same.

  3. Ginger Napier says:

    I have been reading your series, “Dead in Wyoming,” and have truly enjoyed the first 2 and am now on to #3. I just read your PWI blog and wish that it could be published in a way that everybody could read it. There are so many things I could say, but in the end you said it far better than I could ever hope to say. I will continue to read what you write and heartily encourage all that I know to do the same.

  4. Patricia says:

    Thank you so much, Ginger! Telling others about my books is the greatest compliment, and I truly appreciate it. Happy reading!

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