I admit I have been in a bit of a fugue since the election. The months before felt like one big game of whack-a-mole with lies about health care coming fast and furious from our now President Elect and his minions. Many in the press did not help. The media created headlines that offered the possibility of conflict or concern where none existed. It was a fantastic display of false equivalence. Sometimes the truth was buried in the article, but four paragraphs in is basically Siberia as about 40% of people report they only read the headlines. On Facebook 70% of people only read the headline of a science study before sharing. So we saw headlines like this leading up to the election:
However, Clinton didn’t faint she had a near faint. Most of the time this is benign (i.e. not a health “scare”), but why ask anyone who might know? There is even less cause for concern for a woman who had been investigated previously for fainting, but hey why bother with facts?!
Donald Trump basically released no health information, but Clinton’s campaign was paranoid. Then again Clinton released 38 years of taxes and Trump released nothing. If Clinton hadn’t released her tax returns no one would have known what she made in speeches. The press harped about her speeches and yet we are just now after the election learning about the vast conflicts of interest that come with our President Elect.
And this this headline…
To be fair most journalists have no control of headlines, but remember it’s the headlines that count. The only passionate things Trump said about abortion at that debate were lies. The headline should have been, “Trump lies about abortion in front of the nation.”
And then this from today…
Headlines are going to be even more of an issue when the President Elect speaks in lies.
Apparently we can’t make those headlines go away because they get page clicks, so what can we do?
The solution to pollution is dilution
When there is a dirty wound full of bacteria the first step is to rinse the area as many times as possible with water. Fewer bacteria means a lower risk of infection. To do the same with news we need more accurate headlines as well as more accurate news.
How do you know what is good and what is fake?
That’s a tough one, but I’m upping my committing to be an agent of information. I’m going to do my best to post seven days a week. I have a job and kids and a life so I can’t churn out seven original posts a week, but I do read enough every day that I can post here what I’m reading and a short blurb on why it’s worth while. I’m going to invest time in reading how best to present information to effect change. For example, telling parents how safe vaccines are and how vaccines don’t cause autism doesn’t change minds, however, presenting information about how dangerous measles really is can increase positive beliefs about vaccines. Right now I’m just committing to health quality and quantity, but I am hoping to profile some of the health journalists who I have worked with over the years who I have come to trust that way if you see their work you can be more confident in sharing.
Is this a fool’s errand? Well, if misinformation can spread so can information we just have to commit to it. When I first started blogging I didn’t know how many people I’d reach, but in the five years my posts have been viewed almost 12 million times. It takes time to build a following, but I believe if people come to view you as a source of valuable information they will be more likely to click your links whether it’s a post you wrote on a blog or one you are sharing on Facebook. I have friends in private Facebook groups who regularly share my posts and tell me they have changed minds about topics from HPV vaccine safety to sex selective abortion. Sharing takes two clicks. Literally. Maybe 10 seconds out of your day.
So if you are upset about the election or about misinformation about women’s health care or about bad health information online extend your privilege and commit to sharing one post a day on social media. It’s time for us to all collectively stop moaning about Facebook and fake news and actively work to dilute it.
Here’s hoping you are with me!