Discouraging sharing "fake news" - young and liberal edition
February 19, 2018 5:40 PM   Subscribe

I have a childhood friend who is recently "woke" and is using Facebook to "educate" others. Great! But almost everything he shares is "fake news." What can I do about it?

This guy is in his late 30s. He is a PoC. He was adopted in his late childhood from a country that our president called a shithole. His adoptive family is white, very religious, and very conservative. They had over 20 children in their home. The adopted children were pretty much the only PoC in our school district/town and were often high needs. The household was not a good situation and our school district did not give these children the support they needed. Lots of the adopted children as adults are estranged from their adoptive family. He didn't graduate high school. He now works as a casual laborer.

In the last year or so he got woke. I think that this is awesome. He now posts a lot of political/social justice stuff on Facebook. (Like over 10 posts a day.) Initially his adoptive family and some of the white people we grew up with used these posts for serious arguments with him. Those of us that grew up with him occasionally jump in to be non-racist whites in these discussions. These discussions often dissolve into "Hey, you had it good in our community/our home versus what your home country was like, why are you attacking white people?"

After a few months, most of his adoptive family unfriended him and lots of people we grew up with did too.

And, over time, he has begun to post more outrageous material. Like total "fake news" that isn't even slightly believable and is easily fact checked with the first Google hit. Those of us that know better have gently and firmly asked him to please check his sources, check Snopes, Wikipedia, etc. But our "criticism" has fueled the fire with more attacks from his conservative relatives/friends who now pick on him more for sharing fake news.

Here's what I (and many others) have done that hasn't helped:
- Told him to check Snopes or google things
- Don't share until he checks, nothing is that urgent
- Told him that sharing such things really makes him look bad and lose credibility
- Threatened to defriend him
- Put his energy and enthusiasm into working with groups like BLM or local groups (I don't live in the same place so I can't make specific recommendations)
- Told him that I want to help him and that I applaud his efforts at educating people

Is this a lost cause or are there ways that this guy can increase his media literacy, change his posting behaviors, and put his good intentions to good use? I really want to be a supportive white friend to him, especially given that he is dealing with people that are deeply racist.
posted by k8t to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: If it matters, he often shares images from weird Facebook pages. We have asked him to consider if those groups are the BEST source.
posted by k8t at 5:55 PM on February 19, 2018

Lecturing him about "fake news" is unlikely to achieve your aim. Could you try sharing news/information with him from sites you regard as more reliable, in the hope that he will move towards them and away from the weird Facebook fringe?
posted by robcorr at 5:58 PM on February 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

You gotta let him go through this phase. He hasn't hit the surface yet. Unfriend him, unfollow him, whatever you gotta do. Lead by example and see what ends up resonating with him enough that his nascent woke-ness awakens further.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:19 PM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is sad, but I'm not sure how much you can do. If you are not a PoC of his ethnicity, I'm afraid you may end up doing more harm than good. He's missing something in life that he needs from someone, or some place, that isn't here for him right now. That's why he's doubling down on a fantasy world. Unless he gets into anti-Semitism or something else truly scary, I think you may just have to let this pass.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:30 PM on February 19, 2018

Don't do anything about it. Click "Unfollow" and move on.
posted by humboldt32 at 6:34 PM on February 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

He isn't seeking the truth.

He's trying to upset his adoptive parents and their circle as much as possible.

And it sounds like he has very legitimate grievances against them, but it might help him more for other people he knows (e. g. you) to acknowledge publicly that he was mistreated and talk it over with him -- which would probably upset his parents and their ilk more than almost anything else he could do.
posted by jamjam at 6:37 PM on February 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

Facebook....doesn't matter. We all have childhood friends who post a lot of things outside our comfort zone, from the outrageous to the smugly conservative. If you don't really care about the person you unfollow them. If you like arguing on FB, you argue.
But you seem concerned about him as a whole person. My advice is totally ignore his posts. Send him greetings, columns from leftist but reliable sources, recipes, pictures of your cat. Either be his friend, or don't, but either way you should not be this other adult's social media manager. He's probably been managed enough.
posted by velveeta underground at 6:47 PM on February 19, 2018 [7 favorites]

My guess is that right now he prefers the excitement of fake news which confirms what he feels to be true, and perhaps reflects his anger and frustration, to the often more boring and complicated truth.

Trying to tell him what to do, using logic, and threatening consequences doesn't seem to be helping, so if you unfollow him just unfollow him. If you decide to engage try asking questions "What does this mean to you? Why is it important to you to share it?" But probably just unfollow for a while and give him some time.
posted by bunderful at 6:51 PM on February 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

He's learning. He has a new way of seeing the world; it's exciting. When he posts accurate information, Like it. Comment on it. That ValidNewsSite story seems well-researched and the facts are really there. Thanks for sharing it. Most crap - ignore it. Egregious crap - Post a link to snopes or other fact-checker and I agree with the point but somebody got a little too creative with their facts here. When you see valid news that is of interest, share it This article really supports what you were saying about Subject. I know you are always looking for well-researched information on Subject. Support his ideas and beliefs, and let him find his way towards better data. Set a good example.
posted by theora55 at 7:41 PM on February 19, 2018 [16 favorites]

You’re not obligated to listen to outright lies, no matter who is speaking them. The unfollow button is there for exactly this reason.

That said, he’s not something to “fix.” Your job, as friend, is not to curate his feed to a level you approve of. And fb isn’t real life. I have plenty of good friends whose Facebook feeds I’ve had to unfollow, and I’m sure some of my friends have done the same to me. I’m still friends with them. It’s not worth ruining friendships over.

I occasionally go back to the walls of people I’ve blocked and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised that either I’ve mellowed or they have and it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. Sometimes you just need some distance. Maybe take a social media break from your friend and try again in a couple months.
posted by greermahoney at 10:44 PM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Those of us that grew up with him occasionally jump in to be non-racist whites in these discussions."

These discussions often dissolve into "Hey, you had it good in our community/our home versus what your home country was like, why are you attacking white people?"

This is a terribly condescending attitude from a position of privilege and it is probably distressing for your friend to be told to be grateful. You have no conception of what it is like to be an adoptee from X country and to experience racial issues in America as someone in his position because you aren't one.

I am probably not the best person to advise on this as I am neither American nor an adoptee. I am Asian and since I am active online I have occasionally run into adoptees of the same ethnicity. They have had many issues due to transracial/transnational adoption. Some resented the country of origin/parents for abandoning them and refused to have anything to do with the language and culture as the result.

One girl grew up in North America with the message that the place she was adopted from was a total shit-hole and she ought to be grateful to be adopted to the West. This led to terrible self-esteem and identity issues. I was quite puzzled by this because I happened to be familiar with the place she was born and though the place certainly has problems, it has lovely charms of its own. In no way do I think of it as a shit-hole and it is certainly not as poor as she thinks it is. It is a terrible pity that she's stuck seeing the place that way.

Not being an adoptee, I am not familiar with adoptee networks but you might want to start with this blog by a Korean adoptee. With this blog and googling etc, you can probably find out more info about transracial/transnational adoptee organizations. I suggest you read this and share it with your friend.
Harlow's Monkey

I suspect the fake news is simply a sign of psychological distress. He needs older mentors who are also adoptees from the same country. Immigrants from the same country who are willing to share the language/culture with him as a big brother/sister may also be helpful though as non-adoptees, they will not be able to understand totally what it is like since immigrants usually at least have their families and ethnic communities.
posted by whitelotus at 1:56 AM on February 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

My mom went/is going through the same thing. She went ballistic after Trump was installed. Her brothers and sisters unfriended her and her children (even though we don't post political stuff for the most part). I was fine with that as I am not inclined to associate with Trump supporters by choice anyway. While I'm glad she found an outlet for her voice and felt empowered (something she has never had given my dad's authority over her) I was saddened that it took over her the degree that is did. She also watches MSNBC from morning to night and Rachel Maddow is a goddess who cannot be questioned. She often says that people need to stay informed about what is going on, which is certainly true but I believe she is definitely in the realm of addiction and bias that is debilitating. I have never told her to tone it down because who am I to tell anyone what they should be doing if they haven't asked me? Fortunately she has come to her own conclusion that sharing 10 highly political and questionable memes a day isn't good for much and has started sharing more inspirational memes of a buddhistic nature. I would let him follow his own path on this, he needs an outlet. I wouldn't block him but perhaps unfollow him so you don't have to see the posts.
posted by waving at 5:21 AM on February 20, 2018

I sometimes share this infographic which was put out by librarians. Or even more succinctly, talk about "It's a TRAP: Timeliness, Relevance, Authority, Purpose" as a way to share the basic matrix you should run through in your head before deciding to share something.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:46 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all. This was really helpful.

For what it's worth, for clarification, he continues to live in an almost exclusively white community. I suspect he doesn't have PoC in his day to day existence. Those that are telling him to be grateful are the racist people from our town or his adoptive family.
posted by k8t at 8:06 AM on February 20, 2018

Telling him how much better it is here than his home country is shitty. When you see people telling him that, please challenge it, on his behalf and on the behalf of all int’l adoptees! I would ask you to steer him to some adoptee groups where he can at least explore the utter awfulness of int’l adoption w/o judgement. PM me for a couple groups if you think he would be interested. We would welcome gim with open arms, fake news leanings and all. (Facebook groups)

As for the fake stuff he’s citing, it doesn’t do much good to point out to a poster that their info is fake, it often has the opposite effect unfortunately. Maybe try to engage him and try to get him to back up his claims, but gently and kindly.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 1:33 PM on February 20, 2018

« Older Adult Fun In Downtown Orlando   |   Hiking boots for warm climate Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.