Facebook and other social media outlets have a myriad of benefits to users — connecting people, families and communities. They can provide an open forum for discussion about local issues or spread information quickly — whether good or bad.

Often, members of our communities turn to Facebook to find out about local, immediate or breaking news — power outages, internet failures, door-to-door salesmen, even suspicious activity or stolen personal property. If you only share the information on social media, the result may not be as effective as taking other actions.

Pacific Power’s website has regularly updated and reliable information on power outages and estimated times of power restoration, for example. Suspicious activity and other criminal behavior should be reported to police.

The Dallas Police Department issued a statement to that extent. Dallas police said that unless these things are formally reported to the agency, the impact on that particular event is minimal.

“We just wanted to remind everyone that we do not monitor our Facebook page 24/7, nor do we monitor other Facebook pages 24/7.” 

Also, social media makes it easy to spread false information, to the point where the Sri Lankan government decided to temporarily block access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Google’s YouTube in the aftermath of the deadly bombings on Easter Sunday. The risk of fake news and misinformation was too great during the crisis.

It’s so easy to “share” news on these platforms — just a click of the mouse or a tap on a screen. But sharing false information, even if it “sounds right” or “feels right” or you agree with the sentiment, does more harm than good.

If you had a handful of tar, would you gladly pass it to your friends and family? Perhaps if we could visibly see the harm caused, we would pause before sharing or liking something.

Check the sources. Think about the message before you share. Turn to accredited news sources. Remember the famous (false) quote by President Abraham Lincoln, “The problem with quotes on the internet is it is very hard to verify their authenticity.”

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