Who are you amplifying?

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I’ve noticed people often share and retweet messages they want to extinguish or refute. Or voices that shock or horrify them. The result is counter-intuitive: those negative voices grow louder and more powerful.

A social media thought experiment

Imagine your social media profile as a stage (literally, your platform). You are the only one standing on that stage, with a spotlight, microphone, and all.

You’re looking out from the stage onto your audience. These are your social media followers and friends. Some of us are speaking to a classroom-sized group. Others, to a stadium-sized crowd.

These people have chosen to be in your audience because they like you, love you, trust you, or appreciate something you do. So they listen to you.

Sharing or retweeting a voice on your social media profile is like inviting that voice on to your stage, stepping aside, and giving them your mic.

Whatever you amplify grows

If you believe this voice is worthwhile and important, you’ve done both the worthwhile voice AND your audience a service.

But if not — if you believe this voice is negative or destructive — you’ve just made it louder, even if you’re standing offstage, pointing and saying, “isn’t this voice horrible?”

Worse, your audience members may agree with you and share the destructive voice on THEIR stages, making it even LOUDER.

So today, every day, pause before you share. Consider if the person you’re amplifying has earned the privilege of using your stage.

Karen Walrond expanded on this idea on her blog, Chookooloonks. She makes two crucial points:

  • Sharing bigoted messages unintentionally hurts those targeted.
  • Choosing not to amplify evil does not mean we should ignore evil. On the contrary — we must act.

Photo credit: Sins S, Barry Weatherall, Mark Williams

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