Misinformation on social media

We hear the word a lot – misinformation. We hear about its pervasiveness on social media even more. But what does misinformation mean? What are the implications of misinformation on social media platforms? Why does misinformation pose such a threat elsewhere?

I think I should start by saying that I HATE the euphemistic term misinformation. It’s misleading. It suggests it’s misinformed. That’s what the prefix mis- tends to preclude in English words. Some lack of intention or lesser harm. Far less insidious than, say, lies or deceit. But that’s exactly what misinformation is. It’s false data or information. I do wonder why those who coin the terms for these things might have settled for misinformation. As much as I hate to admit it, I find Fake News to be a more appropriate term – it at least highlights a problematic nature with the news that has been falsified; fake connoting some undesirable quality (think of how fake is used to deride or negatively frame, for example, people, tanning products, vegan meat substitutes). Like most things, I’m finding the need to use literal language to avoid minimising or trivialising the issue. As fun and creative as figurative language is, it often results in dampening the urgency or gravity of a situation. We need to call these instances of false information what they are, not only to highlight them as a problem but to consider why they are occurring with what appears to be exponential frequency and danger. In other words, where is this happening with the intention of lying and consequently causing harm?

On social media, misinformation largely refers to articles shared by users which are not factually accurate. An issue with social media information sharing is the platform’s inability to fact-check. You usually have to leave the platform to check out the facts. For several reasons, we have grown to take our social media information at face value, not going off-platform to research the claims of clickbaity headlines, Tumblr conversations or curiously images with blocks of text lacking any references. Despite the dubious nature of these items, we still feel compelled to believe them – because why would anyone lie?

We know, however, that this flaw in our social media use is absolutely used against us. Carole Cadwalladr presented evidence of the Brexit campaign’s misinformation use in Facebook ads which undoubtedly influenced many people’s decisions in the vote. American congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was recently applauded for her targeted questioning of Mark Zuckerberg in Facebook’s lack of fact-checking capabilities on political ads, despite evidence of political ads publishing blatant lies and doctored statistics to influence voting in the last election.

Facebook has recently implemented fact checking on some posts where the information is queried so users can be reassured or dissuaded from sharing posts. But Facebook is one platform – the issue goes much further.

Instagram in particular has become a hub for educational resources (I recently wrote about some of the issues I have with knowledge sharing on social media). Anyone can access Canva and create aesthetically pleasing images with text in funky fonts, make reasonably argued claims and publish them for the world to share and repost without any investigation. Without a large enough audience, it’s impossible to include Swipe Up links in Instagram Stories to direct people to further reading or resources. We all get a website URL we can use, but how many people actually click through? Part of the problem is the functionality of Instagram forces users to exit the app if they want to find more information on a topic – user psychology predicts that people would rather stay in-app and keep scrolling. That’s why Instagram created a web browser experience for Swipe Up links that doesn’t require you to jump to another app like Chrome; it happens within Instagram itself. We’ve been conditioned by these apps’ design to expect information to be brought to us, not for us to go out seeking it. And who would prefer to switch apps (a clunky user experience at the best of times) when they could take the easy route and keep scrolling to find other aesthetically pleasing grid pic with big statements in bold font.

Of course, there’s also the issue of referencing and sources for these educational content squares. While many educators and content creators do reference and acknowledge where information comes from, transparency is difficult to maintain on platforms like Instagram. Largely because they weren’t built for this use – although Insta HQ devs could definitely tackle this problem if the company’s owners (Facebook) cared enough.

WhatsApp is another platform – whether you consider it inherently *social media* or not – that we need to think about. Communities globally use WhatsApp in different ways, but group chats are a common feature across the world. And in these group chats, you often see viral content shared and repurposed. But WhatsApp has no feature for fact-checking or flagging misinformation before the content is forwarded to another chat. And with its perceived distance from the internet/Google Chrome, are we even less likely to leave the app and check out the claims of a meme or supposedly screenshotted image of advice from an unnamed doctor who advises drinking lots of water will dissolve COVID-19 and save our immune systems?

So what can we do to combat misinformation on social media?

Firstly, we can be more conscious of the information we’re consuming and think more critically about what it’s telling us. This isn’t really anything new – people have been sceptical of The Media (namely newspapers, more recently the BBC) and the biases or skewed perceptions they have portrayed of certain issues, especially as they relate to governments and powerful companies or individuals. We can definitely apply this scepticism (while avoiding falling down a full on conspiracy rabbit hole) to social media content, particularly paid ads or sponsored content. However that puts the onus on us as users, which, in my opinion, errs on the side of victim blaming; “It’s your responsibility to stay vigilant of your surroundings and whose content you consume” has echoes of “Don’t walk home by yourself to avoid being attacked” and other harmful rhetorics laid at the feet of victims of rape culture.

Instead, you can push content creators to include more transparency in sharing their sources. Gently remind your friends who keep sharing posts without any evidence to back up claims that they should be fact-checking before hitting the Share button. For ads or content that looks suspicious, report it to the platform; put the onus on them to improve their safety mechanisms. There are regularly petitions circulating to push the Government to regulate social media platforms (especially around political advertising) – sign those petitions.

I realise that these are still actions you have to take, but they don’t focus on policing your own actions or force you to keep yourself safe, instead they bring others into the conversation to tackle this issue from a number of angles. This multi-angle approach is crucial if we’re going to see any real change for the better when it comes to tackling the deluge of false information spreading through social media.

Being aware and having your eyes wide open is really important here. It’s exhausting; it’s tedious; it’s infuriating when you realise just how flawed so many of these systems are. Those aren’t reasons to remain complacent. The information is there. The proof of lies being spread via social media is abundant. We have a duty as digital citizens and as app users to take ownership of our own media consumption, and by extension, our exposure to education and information gathering.

EDITED ON 13TH AUGUST TO ADD
The BBC published a news article on 12th August 2020:‘Hundreds dead’ because of Covid-19 misinformation.

At least 800 people died around the world because of coronavirus-related mininformation in the first three months of this year…about 5,800 people were admitted to hospital as a result of false information on social media. Many died from drinking methanol or alcohol-based cleaning products. They wrongly believed the products to be a cure for the virus.

Alistair Coleman, BBC News

So misinformation is not just dangerous politically, but potentially lethal. The findings of this research is surely enough to highlight the very real threat of embodied harm that misinformation poses, even if the purposefully false political advertising doesn’t strike you as wholly problematic.

The value of knowledge sharing on social media

Why do you use social media?

My top three reasons are:

  1. keep up to date with friends and family
  2. for work (content creation and curation, community management, networking) and uni research purposes
  3. to learn and keep up to date with what’s happening in the world/specific areas of my interests

That’s a great thing about social media – the free, open access to people and information. It’s quite amazing, really. We have the world in the palm of our hands. We can visit cities across the world through screens, track social movements through hashtags, build communities of learning. Recent months have seen several high profile social justice movements rise to prominence through social media activism – not least Black Lives Matter, support for Lebanon and educating on the situation in Yemen. Infographics, videos, Instagram Lives, TikToks and other social media tools are being spread far and wide – often crossing platforms – to educate, inspire and encourage action.

But at what cost?

How often do we pause to think about the cost of creating these resources? Or the knowledge that fed their creation? What is the cost of social media activism and education?

Firstly, there’s the cost of labour.
I’m talking the time, energy, tools, resources and knowledge required to create infographics. All too often, there’s an emotional labour cost put on marginalised activists and educators too. None of this is reimbursed in any way because social media platforms are non-monetised unless you run/engage in advertising. So all this work is being done for free.

We have gotten so used to getting things for free, we don’t even stop to consider the real cost of the information. And, in turn, we devalue the knowledge and skill of those who disseminate it.

And what about boundaries?
When we identify specific people as The Educators for certain topics, we often see comments demanding more from those educators or content creators to cover X, Y and Z on that topic (or, even totally unrelated things – because they’re The Educators).

We see people holding individuals responsible for knowledge dispensing – something which also highlights potential issues down the line with knowledge gatekeeping – and pressure being put on content creators to post/talk/educate on topics that platform users want to see prioritised, regardless of the account owner’s own knowledge, interest or feelings on the matter.

Basically, what I’m saying is that by identifying The Educators, we’re becoming more demanding of their time, effort, knowledge and energy. And (back to the point on cost) we’re doing nothing to compensate them for this. These social media platforms are free, predominantly open access, or partially open if they screen followers. But the fact remains that instead of us going to Google to do our own research, we’re relying on the labour of The Educators to keep us up to date with all the current hot topics in a well-rounded way without engaging in these conversations ourselves with any analysis, criticism or reflection.

The crossing and ignoring of boundaries is particularly prevalent in the experiences of Black women and other marginalised activists and educators, from what I’ve seen. Ericka Hart, a sex educator on Instagram, posted this week about their experience of boundaries being crossed and gaslighting via DMs off the back of their Instagram Stories on colourism. Fashion sustainability activist Aja Barber has posted an FAQ about her space to her grid the other day, yet again, reaffirming her boundaries for her platform because people do not listen or take the time to understand how she is willing to engage with people on her account.

There’s a huge collective understanding of agency missing from social media users, I think. We forget that because these activists, educators and content creators have a platform and that they can be reached personally, that you are entitled to their attention. The accessibility of social media in widening participation in these conversations has come at the cost of recognising the individual as a person with their own boundaries, needs and limits. We see these people as a fountain of knowledge that we can endlessly fill our cups from, but we don’t do anything to replenish the fountain.

Which is why, understandably, more of The Educators are beginning to paywall some of their content on platforms like Patreon. There’s a personal safety element to that move, as well as a rebalancing the scales of power – paying for the labour of educating is a fundamental way of empowering The Educators, especially when they are Black, Indigenous, People of Colour and/or from marginalised communities.

And I want to say something briefly on the point of knowledge.
How often are these content creators given status or recognition as a Knowledge Haver and Distributor without any real understanding of their experience to do so? How critical are we of our educators – where they got their knowledge, their lenses of reflection and analysis, the work they’re doing behind the scenes? It’s great to see social media accounts like Simple Politics and So You Want To Talk About popping up in the last few years – they largely take on complex issues in more accessible and easily digestible chunks, often provide sources lists and further reading lists for the issue at hand. However, a content creator (or team of creators) cannot be expected to be experts on every subject they cover if they don’t narrow their focus.

Social media platforms are not built for deeper reflection and analysis of complex subjects. They (sometimes) let us link to external resources, but how often do people actually click through to further their education? How often do they just keep scrolling and internally tick their Education box because they saw some images on an Instagram Story or watched a couple TikToks about the issue. Social media is not condusive in its current form to meaningful reflection. That doesn’t happen through pastel coloured squares with doodles and aesthetically pleasing fonts.

Pay up and pay forward

In my opinion, social media platforms are not the best places to get your education. Paying educators by buying their resources (books, films, documentaries, podcasts, newsletters) offers a more sustainable, more rounded approach.

Of course, not everyone can afford to subscribe to Patreon or buy the latest books on their reading list each month. To keep it accessible, consider paying forward a subscription once in a while to help those with less access to funds. Donate or lend your books and resources to others when you’re finished. There are ways to keep community activism and education accessible – most often its those who experience boundaries to access who lead the way in accessible education and resource sharing.

Social media can be a great tool for exposure to and community building around activism, passions and other knowledge. It cannot be the sole venue of learning. Many activists and educators have websites, newsletters, workshops and other platforms that are not social media-based, where it is much easier to link to more resources for learning and providing a more in-depth understanding of an issue or situation. And paying for that education, reimbursing these people (including organisations – many of these accounts are run by charities or non-profit orgs that rely on donations to keep producing content) is a powerful way to truly recognise the value of the knowledge these people are sharing on non-monetised platforms.

Catalogue of Published Work

The following is my portfolio of articles I have published on other websites and in print. I’ve catalogued my work by year and month. Overarching themes include intersectional feminist analysis, social media and online identities, and theatre reviews.

2020

January
My relationship with social media – YWCA Scotland

March
Tips for staying well while living online – YWCA Scotland

April
Homelessness is a feminist issue – YPeople

How our social media procrastination became just another type of work – Prospect Magazine

May
Body Image: No one size fits all approach – YWCA Scotland

August
Language’s influence on body image – Engender

2019

August
Review: Cotton Fingers – The Feminist Fringe

Review: White Girls – The Feminist Fringe

Review: The Addams Family – The Feminist Fringe

Review: Sea Sick – The Feminist Fringe

2018

January
Can marriage ever be feminist? – Femini Magazine, online (defunct)

May
Redundancy: What to expect, what questions to ask and how to handle it – Girls In Work

The darker side of social media influencers – The Nopebook

Review: The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward – Femini Magazine, print

August
Review: Dangerous Giant Animals – The Feminist Fringe

Review: Joe Sutherland: Toxic – The Feminist Fringe

2017

January
You know you’re an Obanite if… – BuzzFeed Community

May
The Manchester Attack – Vocal Media

June
Radical softness as a weapon – Femini Magazine, online (defunct)

July
Bloody Brilliant: Scotland becomes the first country to provide underprivileged women with sanitary products – Femini Magazine, online (defunct)

2015

January
Review: The Real Inspector Hound – Edinburgh49

February
Review: The Vagina Monologues – Edinburgh49

Review: Sister Act – Edinburgh49

March
Review: Bittersweet – Edinburgh49

Review: The Gondoliers – Edinburgh49

Review: The Producers – Edinburgh49

2014

December
Review: The BFG – Edinburgh49

The Appropriation of African American Vernacular English

What is African American Vernacular English (AAVE)?
AAVE is an English dialect used by African Americans. Many words like salty, bae, woke and the habitual be verb construction come from AAVE; it’s a dialect that bares a wealth of linguistic gold. It’s often represented in African American artists’ music, particularly hip-hop, but is increasingly appearing in non-Black people’s vernacular as they continue appropriating it. This is incredibly problematic. As Nathan Metivier put it in an article he published in January 2020:

While the widespread use of AAVE by white speakers may appear to reflect an appreciation of African American culture or a bridge across racial tensions, the lack of recognition for the origins of culturally embedded AAVE terms and the attitudes of the white speech community — who flippantly overuse and eventually dismiss appropriated AAVE terms as “outdated” or “no longer cool” — ultimately reflect a lack of appreciation for the African American speech community’s language, culture, and art forms by the cultural hegemony.

Nathan Metivier, ‘Linguistic Appropriation: AAVE, Hip-Hop and Digital Culture’

What is linguistic appropriation?
Much like other kinds of appropriation, linguistic appropriation is the uptake of a language, dialect (often specific features) by the non-native speakers without understanding the cultural significance. These non-native speakers’ use often undermines the subversive nature of the language. In the case of AAVE, non-Black speakers do not stop to consider the implications of using, judging and misusing linguistic features that they come into contact with primarily through music and other popular media. This lack of empathy and informed use results in native AAVE speakers being further marginalised, especially when racial tensions are as high as they currently are amid the Black Lives Matter revolution.

Why can’t I use AAVE?
One of the first arguments refuting the idea that AAVE should be reserved for native African American speakers is something along the lines of ‘culture is for everyone’ and ‘it’s racist to not allow people to appreciate culture’. Culture can be appreciated without being appropriated. Unfortunately, it’s not appreciation non-Black people are exhibiting when they use AAVE, it’s a blatant disregard for cultural significance, and the historic and current oppression Black communities by white people.

There is a difference between sharing and taking. At present, our society is incredibly imbalanced in favour of white people. White supremacy rules and influences the majority of decisions, policies and practices in Western society. As a result, where African Americans are criticised and refused opportunities for using AAVE in job interviews or public spaces more generally, white people are not. This is racism in action. The rules are different based on a history of racism and white supremacy which disadvantages African Americans at every turn and that is NOT okay. White people cannot engage in activities and language which profits us – makes us look ‘cool’ (ew) or ‘different’ (double ew) or ‘exotic’ (a term so racist it’s actually vile) – while it puts African Americans at risk financially, legally or otherwise.

Much of linguistic change is controlled by the dominant group in an area. English was shaped by those who were in power, which is why there are remnants of French, Norse and other languages and dialects mixed into our modern vocabulary. Dominant languages determined much of language change. And sometimes, it did that by encouraging the non-dominant language to adapt and change in subversive ways. With the white supremacist dominant structuring of much of Western society, AAVE – the language of African American communities – is not a dominant language.

At best, this form of appropriation is disrespectful to AAVE’s native speech community, regardless of how innocent the intentions of the white speech community are. At worst, appropriating AAVE is actively destructive to the culture it comes from because it trivializes a rich language form that is embedded in a cultural history of oppression as nothing more than “silly youth slang.”

Nathan Metivier, ‘Linguistic Appropriation: AAVE, Hip-Hop, and Digital Culture’

English is an incredibly expressive language. We can turn just about any word into a euphemism for drunk. We have a bountiful vocabulary to work with. We really don’t need to appropriate AAVE to become more expressive. Especially when doing so is racially insensitive and, quite frankly, oppressive.

You might be copying characters from films or high profile individuals on reality TV. You’re also able to actively engage with the language and habits you’re picking up and purposefully choose to correct yourself aloud when you slip into AAVE and replace it with a non-appropriative alternative. Training yourself to think more carefully and approach language more pointedly will help to ensure you communicate as you fully intend to as well.

TLDR: if you’re not Black, African American Vernacular English is not for you.

Antiracism and Your Online Presence

A bit of background
Researching violence on social media, I look at language, memes, GIFs, emojis, the weight of violence in a retweet, and a whole range of other instances of violence as they occur on the internet. This is a topic I have been interested in for years and now it is the focus of my PhD. It’s a sprawling topic, much like the World Wide Web itself.

In light of the Black Lives Matter revolution gaining more traction and attention than ever before, antiracism is an understandably amplified topic both online and off. Of course, much of the current conversation is performative – that’s what happens when you haven’t done the work up til now. It’s not like people haven’t been talking about racism around the world for hundreds of years. People have just chosen to listen, to actively silence and place their own comfort above the safety of those affected by white supremacy. However, with more people joining these conversations, there are some patterns emerging that are a continuation of racism in digital spaces.

Back it up a bit
We’re living in the age of the internet. Many of the conversations we have about racism, antiracism and white supremacy are happening online. In theory, this is a great thing. Accessibility is hugely important, as are inclusion and diversity. The digital age should allow us to give space to educators, activists, those with lived experience and let us learn from a range of people across the world. However, the way we use much of the internet – especially social media – doesn’t often allow for this in practice. One of the reasons for this is the fact that poverty overwhelmingly affects Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. Access is not a simple issue and intersecting barriers like racism, poverty and problems faced by those with other marginalised identities compound the inaccessible nature of social media for many of the important conversations where these people’s voices are most needed.

Another problem is that Black, Indigenous and People of Colour are routinely silenced on social media platforms. The algorithms are biased and do not amplify marginalised users where they should. Platform safety policies rarely do enough to protect users, but often are used against marginalised users to silence them when they speak out about the racism they’re experiencing on the platforms and in wider society. Then there’s the racist platform users who leave comments, share content and post their own content with the intent to harm; creating hostile environments for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour on the platforms. Coordinated attacks routinely see the deplatforming of Black, Indigenous and Poeple of Colour whose powerful voices condemn racism, white supremacy and a number of related social issues (e.g. whorephobia, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, poverty, class systems, misogyny).

Effective communication online
Another problem is that nuance can be difficult to communicate online. When you rely on images and text (especially with character limits), you often lose tone, facial expression, and context for starters. Videos often have a time limit. Posts can be taken out of context. Intention is hard to discern online and perception can be nearly impossible to predict (this is all stuff I’m picking apart in my thesis and to date I have no real answer for rectifying this issue). We have come to view certain actions as agreement, even when there’s no accompanying text to contextualise sharing or liking a post. We are seeing that platform users are finding ways around implicit messaging attached to actions like shares and likes. On Twitter, for example, we see people screenshotting tweets and images for resharing to minimise amplification of content (which at times is done to minimise harm, other times to capture ‘receipts’ or proof that the content did exist, should it be deleted). However, the fact remains that fully understanding someone’s point of view can be very difficult with the limited context and content provided by social media – particularly where there’s a lack of audiovisual components.

Internet communication is endlessly complex. Tackling complex issues on platforms where intention can be misunderstood does not bode well for positive exchange, civil discussion or learning. Every user has a unique relationship with the technology they use and a unique approach to their engagement with the platforms they use. Those relationships will depend on a number of things, not least their prior experience with the internet, their understanding of their own identity, their understanding of how identity construction online, their relationships with the people they interact with on the platform and their understanding of how others view them on that platform. Like I said, it’s complex stuff. Much of this work is subconscious, largely because our education on internet existence, identity building and online safety was (and continues to be) sorely lacking so those of us who grew up in the age of the internet have had to figure things out as we determined the ways in which apps and platforms would work for us and navigating the interface and content changes forced on us by the platform owners (think about Instagram’s proposed removal of the Likes count display and Tumblr’s banning of sexual content as two recent examples).

Unfortunately, since more and more people rely on social media for communication, education and entertainment, these conversations need to occur in places where more people are likely to see and engage in them. So, complex messages have to be distilled down to fit with platform formats. And, because we’re human and we like repetitive formats, we tend to consume information in the ‘easiest’, most condensed option available. Oftentimes, this results in us losing much of the nuance in conversations. It can also result in well-meaning conversations doing more harm tham good.

Taking the racism out of your internet use
Now, let’s consider your own online presence and how you might work antiracism into your internet use. First of all, look at who you’re following. How many educators, activists, researchers, artists, writers, musicians are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour? Now is the time to curate your feed in a way that promotes a diverse range of thinking, lived experience and action. Maybe you should unfollow people you know are refusing to learn and do the work to be antiracist. Maybe try and engage with people you know who are continuing to be racist and do the work so your pals from marginalised communities don’t have to.

One thing you should absolutely do is research the content you’re engaging with. Look into the arguments and the people sharing them – are they the OP (original poster), or are the reposting other people’s content without credit? Are these people experts, are they new to the conversation? Are there others you can learn more from and who share more nuanced takes on big issues? We’re all so quick to hit Share, but we don’t spend nearly enough time researching to ensure we’re promoting informed individuals who actively work to minimise harm and work in antiracist ways. A quick internet search of “[name] controversy” or “[name] harm” will give you an overview, but search Twitter and Instagram too. Whisper networks often work by not tagging but still using harmful users’ names (or swapping letters for an asterisk to avoid pile-ons or other violence). And be ready to be wrong.

One of the biggest things you can do is be open to being corrected or challenged. We’re human. We won’t get it right all the time. Getting it wrong isn’t the end of the world – it’s an opportunity to learn and expand our understanding of an incredibly complex issue. Share your learning – if you weren’t aware, the likelihood is some of your social media followers won’t have known either. Openness and accountability are good practices to engage with in your internet use.

There’s not only one strategy for weaving antiracism into your online presence, but there are lots of steps you can take in decolonising your social media use that will help.

Digital Blackface and cultural appropriation online
Think about where your internet use includes appropriation. Do you use African American Vernacular English outside of contexts where you are quoting somebody? What words do you search for in the Giphy library, and how many of those GIFs are stereotyped behaviours of Black people? Digital blackface is an issue I have been exploring for a few years. It’s real and it’s incredibly problematic. Teen Vogue published an article about Blackface in GIFs a few years back and I highly recommend you read it. Giphy hired a Cultural Editor, Jasmyn Lawson to address the imbalance of representation in GIFs. She was interviewed by i-D in 2018 on making GIFs more Black and the interview really stuck with me.

“I want to have GIFS that represent all types of black women: light-skinned, dark-skinned, heavy set, different sexual orientations, trans. And really make sure all the different sects of a certain minority group is being represented well in the media.”

Jasmyn Lawson, in an interview for i-D

That this was such a revolutionary step in 2018 really frustrated and upset me. But I was so inspired by Jasmyn’s work. It got me thinking about how I present myself online. Do I resort to racist caricatures? I certainly did. I take a lot more time in choosing GIFs and sharing memes now, considering what implicit messages they carry and whether they fall foul of racial stereotyping or appropriation.

There are multiple ways non-Black people have been appropriating Black culture, history, pain and joy. A recent example is the Breonna Taylor memes. The memeification of her murder, “Anyway arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor”, is a stark reminder that the ways we engage with content on the internet removes an element of humanity from the topics we’re discussing. An excellent article from Huffington Post explores the need for greater recognition by non-Black people of Black humour, joy, grief, pain and culture.

But the popularity of this one call for action has also highlighted the ways in which this current cultural moment is being commodified, trivialized and used as fodder for performative allyship. 

Zeba Blay, Huffington Post

Removing racism from your social media use
We need to bring our internet interaction back to a place of intention and reflection. If we’re going to post online, we have to take away the mindless scroll and actively participate. That means stopping to think about why we’re consuming the content we are, what potential impact this could be having on others, and how we want to engage with other people. In many cases, our use won’t change. But you might consider not retweeting harmful tweets – retweeting tells the algorithm to amplify the post and will potentially put more people at risk of harm. You might add a contextual message to the Instagram post you share to your Story. Maybe instead of a Story, you record a video to give you more space to communicate effectively and save it to your highlights so you can reflect on it later and have it accessible beyond the 24 hour mark.

Social media, but make it antiracist
How you present yourself online is how people will likely remember you, especially during times where in-person meetings are limited and more of our communication is occuring through screens (with or without video and microphones enabled). Actively working antiracism into your internet use, particularly your social media, is a crucial step in decolonising your online presence. The internet doesn’t start or end with social media, but as it continues to play a huge part of our lives in how we curate our digital existence, portray our lives, consume content, learn, engage in activism and so much more, it’s certainly a great place to start building antiracism into your daily life.

This is a huge topic. Technically it’s a combination of multiple huge topics, which makes it even bigger. Such a mammoth needs more than one 2,000 blog post/essay/thought piece/brain dump to investigate it. I have lots of thoughts and feelings about lots of things that are happening online. I’ll publish new blog posts when I have the energy and the words to verbalise the abstract ideas that are bouncing around my brain. As you can probably tell from this ridiculously long blog post, I’m incredibly passionate about these topics. Not least from a research perspective, but as a human who works, researches, learns, connects and emotes a lot online it’s important to me that I reflect regularly on what I’m seeing and doing. I hope this post has given you some food for thought too.