How to talk to your family about misinformation

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Amy Van Es

Listen, social media newsfeeds are a minefield of problematic opinions and fake news. One moment you’re mindlessly scrolling, and the next you’re in a Facebook fight with a riled up uncle you only see at family reunions. What happened to the good old days when people kept their controversial thoughts to themselves? Is it even worth saying anything?

The short answer is yes. But that's easier said than done. Engaging in these conversations in a public forum can be uncomfortable and have real-life consequences on your relationships. So how do you address misinformation in a way where you all come out unscathed?

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when talking to your family about fake news.

Make sure you do your homework, and have the receipts

Disagreeing with what the person is saying doesn’t make it untrue. Before you engage, do a little research yourself and find some helpful, reliable resources to share with them as you debate.

Put yourself in their shoes

When you’re all hot and bothered, it’s hard to remember that there’s still a person behind the social media post. Take a moment to consider their perspective, and think about why they chose to post this. Reminding yourself that they’re human too can diffuse the situation, and you can have a more level-headed conversation.

We get this isn’t always possible though, especially if it's a sensitive topic. In this case, consider if it’s worth it saying something at all. What are you going to take away from this confrontation? Will you feel like you had a positive impact on the other person or the spectators? If yes, proceed. If not, then maybe this isn’t your fight.

Prepare for impact

Remember, you might have gone through these steps and feel ready to have a calm conversation, but they may not. It’s not fun getting called out in front of your peers, so they’re likely to get defensive. If you aren’t willing to risk the impact on your relationship, one solution is to offset the information by posting reliable sources on your own feed. Help keep your peers informed in a non-confrontational way.

Educate yourself

The media has a huge influence over how we think about the world around us. If you’re tired of wading through click-bait and misinformation to stay informed about what’s going on in the world, take it upon yourself to learn a few simple fact-checking strategies. Our free email course “Media Literacy for Grown Ups” makes navigating misinformation online a lot less overwhelming.

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