With great Social Media activity, comes great Responsibility. Or something like that.

A short while ago i wrote this piece urging you to take a moment to fact check before sharing something newsworthy on Facebook. Especially if something is particularly dramatic or inflammatory or involves the supposed death of some celebrity. There is a lot of rubbish that goes around on the internet and when we share a hoax or a scam that we could have verified [quick visit to Snopes.com or even a basic google check is often enough to quickly determine if something is true or not] we become part of the problem.

Abraham Lincoln internet 'quote'

i saw this a fair amount when it came to the recent #FeesMustFall movement that so much of social media was reporting and commenting on. i quickly came to see that some of the reports i read in the newspaper and some of the news broadcasts i happened to catch were not an honest representation of what was actually happening on the ground, due to reports from a number of people i really trust who were there. Hearing other friends give completely opposing accounts of the same event that seemed to be somewhat biased by whichever group they were standing with or representing made it even more harder to figure out what was truth or not.

In fact the best way to get the most accurate account [which of course is not always available to us] was to head down myself and get a view of things on the ground.

Yesterday, i saw this magnified.

There has been some ongoing conversation and activity at the UWC University where my younger sister Dawn studied and so yesterday i was invited to go and represent Cape Town clergy simply to be a presence and hopefully help things to not get out of hand [you know, cos of how clergical i look with my tat, earrings and slipslops!]

At one point we were sitting with a group of between 150 and 300 students who were making a joke about how stories had reported the UWC events to have been happening with firstly 8 and then later 30 people. Speakers made allusions to “the 30 of us” which got huge laughter as clearly there were a lot more than that.

i was following the events on the #UWCShutdown tag on the Twitterer which were coming in fairly slowly so not as hectic as trying to keep up with #FeesMustFall last week. And every now and then i’d read something that…


Hm, going to have to change direction on that one although i think it will help prove my point. So yesterday when i was there i saw this tweet and thought it was about yesterday:

Upon closer look it looks like this might have been from the day before. So my original point was going to be some people were claiming 8 to 30 people whereas this Tweeterer was claiming 4000 people [which there clearly weren’t yesterday]. i was going to make that point and being such a trustworthy blogger [ha!] most of you would have believed me and yet i might have gotten it wrong.

Fortunately i went and checked up my facts before publishing. i don’t know if there were 4000 people at the meeting when these pictures were taken, but i think this demonstrates just how easily it is to get it wrong.

One last point i will add but not go deeply into is that it might be a little harder to believe, but you even have to be careful when it is is a photograph or a video you are looking at. Without the context of what happened before and what took place afterwards or perhaps the vantage point of the person taking the picture [recently a photo was used online of a child killed in Palestine and it turned out the pic was actually from a movie that had been made a few years earlier] and with the ridiculous things that can be achieved with photo and video manipulation these days, what you think you see is not necessarily the truth of what went down.

We can maybe never know for sure [unless we were there and even then we have a particular vantage point, bias and interpretation of events] but we can be as responsible as possible both in our sharing and in our drinking in of the news.

i find that using a variety of accounts and sources, people you trust who are actually there, and finding less biased news reporting services and then where possible heading down and checking for yourself, are all ways of verifying as much as possible what is happening.

Have you ever experienced an event that was reported in a way that was completely different to what you experienced? Share your story in the comments.