Can you please take 5 seconds and check? It’s a simple 4 step process.

Here’s a fabulous quote from Viktor E. Frankl:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

We live in a world were so many people don’t recognise that a space exists, they respond as soon as the stimulus has arrived.

One of the areas where this is most prevalent is in social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, they all suffer from it. People see the stimulus of a post and respond immediately.

I don’t think that a day goes by without me seeing re-posted content that doesn’t pass the space test. People talk about fake news and fake media, but the primary creators of these phenomena are us and our inability to use the space to validate the stimulus.

Whether it’s the global re-writing of the news (or non-news) about Donald Trump and his ability to feed Koi Carp, or the latest “URGENT: Tell all of your friends…” on Facebook we all need to learn to use the space.

The space doesn’t need to be very big, just a few seconds is all you need to check whether you are responding to something genuine or just creating digital noise.

These are the 4 simple steps:

  1. Recognise that whatever the stimulus says, there is always space.
  2. Filter with suspicion. Most of these things only require a modicum of suspicion.
  3. Check your suspicions. There are numerous ways of doing this quickly.
  4. Choose your response. You have the freedom to choose.

1. Recognise that whatever the stimulus says, there is always space.

It’s not urgent, it might say it is, but it’s not. Anything on social media, or on email that says it’s urgent isn’t so urgent that it can’t wait for a few seconds. If it really required an immediate response then it wouldn’t use email, Facebook, twitter, etc.

You have space, use it.

2. Filter with suspicion. Most of these things only require a modicum of suspicion.

Certain things should always make you suspicious, others are probably fine, the tricky ones are the grey ones.

If it’s too good to be true – it’s suspicious.

If it says it’s urgent – it’s suspicious.

If it says it comes from an organisation with which you have financial ties – it’s suspicious.

If it come via that friend who always re-posts this kind of thing – it’s suspicious.

If it’s out of character – it’s suspicious.

If it says it’s urgent and comes from an organisation with which you have no dealings – it’s beyond suspicious and should just be ignored.

3. Check your suspicions. There are numerous ways of doing this quickly.

Google is probably your best friend when it comes to checking your suspicions. Copy and paste a short extract from the re-post or email and it’s likely that you’ll get a flood of search results along the line of: “Amazon email hoax…”; “Egg Windscreen Attack…” and “Win a $1000 Amazon Gift Card” Facebook Survey Scam

If you want to be a bit more targeted there are specific hoax sites like Hoax-Slayer and fact checking sites like Snopes. This is quite regularly the content that Google is highlighting at the top of the search results.

Once you check you’ll probably be surprised by how long the scam/hoax has been floating around the internet – I’ve seen the Egg on Windscreen one recently, it was first reported in 2009!

4. Choose your response. You have the freedom to choose.

Once you’ve checked you can choose what you do in the light of that checking.

Sometimes the right thing to do is to post a response informing your friend/acquaintance of their foolishness. Be careful doing this, you are, after all, telling someone you know that they are twit and people don’t always respond well to such helpful prompting.

Quite often the best response is to do precisely nothing. It’s not always worth posting anything to correct the friends and acquaintances. The chances are that whoever is going to re-port the re-post has already done it anyway.

Those response are assuming that what they have posted is a verifiable hoax/scam. Another response is to create more space and wait a while. Just because there isn’t any public information to say that something is a hoax doesn’t mean that it isn’t. Give it a couple of days, check again, and your suspicions may well prove to be valid.

The final alternative is, of-course, to re-post whatever it is that someone has asked you to highlight. You only have to do this if you really want to, remember: “In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

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