Verify Your Posts on Social Media


My personal Facebook (FB) page, contains a beloved and steady mix of photos, cat videos, lexical jokes (my friends are also word geeks, what a surprise!), music recommendations, and vacation pictures to drool over, as well as religious, health-related, or political discussions that provide a wide range of proof of accuracy or validity. This particularly steady stream of political, religious, or news-oriented comments ranges from the far-right to the far-left and generally consists of shares or copy-and-pastes from the FB feeds of non-friends, friends of friends, or from questionable blogs.


Most of us tolerate this steady steam of commentary and ignore it; some of us, at times, try to push against the ideas with which we disagree. Sometimes, we get caught up in an argument with someone and each person brings out their own set of quotations or citations to support a “side,” usually bringing in the support from unreferenced sources. Mostly, we wish our friends would sort the information grain from the hearsay chaff before they post or share.


Frequently, when one follows through the poster’s share to find the original sources for the claims or in order to determine the statements’ accuracy, one finds that somewhere down the line, misinformation has been quoted, the information is out of date, or has been deliberately taken out of context. Such shared posts are often full of inaccurate information. Yet the fact that one’s own friend has posted it on one’s own feed tends to give the post the weight of their approval, which in the same way, puts one’s own integrity on the line with sharing it to someone else. This is doubly why one shouldn’t just share without verifying the facts as much as possible.

This is true not only of “political” shares but also very frequently is also true about shares that relate to science, experiential, or medical “facts,” such as claims for health cures (“Drs recommend you never eat sugar….”) or environmental issues (“Something-or-other is poisonous because of such-and-such….”) or experiences (“I was kidnapped by aliens and taken to….”). There are some claims that are proven true and worth sharing—don’t get me wrong. However, not all claims are created equally. The person who posts must at least try to verify the things posted or shared before posting or sharing them. Google the key words, check it out on, or follow the trail of blogs that quote that resource. Usually, it takes less than one minute to find out that something is questionable or already proven to be false.

Доверяй, но проверяй—“Trust, but verify,” as the Russian translates into English—an old Russian saying that became well known in the western world when Reagan used it in talks about Soviet nuclear disarmament to say that the verifiability of the procedures should justify the level of trust bestowed in the process. Don’t blindly trust, but check that your trust is merited by the facts. To take it a step farther, only believe and share what you know to be true, as verified to the best of your ability; don’t blindly repost what people say because the name of a famous person is attached to the post or image, or because it tickles your ear and you wish it were true, or that you are “friends” with the poster.


Your respect for your friends does not stretch to the point where you must accept as accurate those things that are not accurate. When your friends don’t bother to check on the things that they share with you, why should you, like a robot, do the same and share untrue things with your friends, risking your own reputation?


Don’t squander good will by posting things that you have not bothered to vet for accuracy, because your reputation for truth suffers when you do not at least try to verify the share. Everyone makes mistakes in this, but some people don’t even try to not make mistakes.

Don’t be one of those people who just shares without fact-checking, because your integrity is at stake: you want people to believe what you say and take seriously what you believe.

See posts on my blog, for more on this topic:

Social media and your ID goals

The limitations and disadvantages of using social media are especially obvious when poor planning or imprudent word choice leads to legal suits, firings, divorces, laughs on late-night comedy, politicians losing the public trust, and more, all because someone did not think before they posted. The saying that a carpenter should “Measure twice, cut once” should be applied to posting, in “Think twice—thrice, or more—then post.” A genie can’t be put back into the bottle after it is let out, so any comment or posting that you make online, whether done in an “on or off” professional attitude, can’t be undone.

Cartoon Image with 2 executives discussing social media without considering the consequences


Avoiding this kind of trouble has layers beneath its surface: even when posting in a professional capacity—for example, posting comments as an editor on an editor’s forum—you can easily be misunderstood or forget to put yourself into the shoes of the audience or say something that has rhetorical implications that you did not realize at first. A quickly turned-out comment or posting might have negative consequences to you professionally if you don’t take the time to read (and reread) what you have written before you post.

Just like in all writing, you must analyze your posting according to: audience, tone, point of view, voice, vocabulary, grammar, and so on. Obviously, you should reflect your professional sound judgment by bias-free word usage, no typos, good graphics, etc. in all your social media interactions.

However, having said all that, posting on forums, commenting on blogs, tweeting, and using other interactive social media are great ways to make professional contacts, provided you understand the forum and its audience, and provided you contribute value to the discussion (i.e., where the audience values your contribution as much as you do). I personally have made some good professional editing contacts by judiciously posting on LinkedIn discussion forums about things within my sphere of expertise.

With that as a foundation, here is a major way that social media could support your ID goals: your social media comments can place your site and message within a context of the shared space of the whole professional community and its messages. In other words, use of social media gives you opportunities to project yourself both thoughtfully and with discretion and precision to impress an audience of users or at least increase your visibility. These users make up your target audience. Social media use helps you to keep up with your profession as it changes, as you follow those resources—whether individuals, publications, businesses—that let you in on cutting edge topics and new technologies, online spaces, discussions, problems, solutions, and change-leaders; social media use also lets you represent yourself or your business professionally.

You show your ability to contribute value to these discussions as you enter the shared space of your professional community, and then, you continue to update yourself as the space grows and changes. You link to what will benefit you and link others to that benefit; you update continuously to change along with the changes that are continuously happening around you.

—Susan LaVelle

Controlling your Home Page: The Designer as “Smothers’ Mother”


Image of Record Album cover, Smothers Brothers, "Mom Always Liked You Best!" with one brother having an overabundance of gifts on his side and the other brother only having a chicken.

© Smothers Brothers All rights reserved.
Accessed on December 5, 2013

Deciding what to feature on a “Home Page” is challenging. Bringing organization stakeholders to participate in that discussion can make this even more complex. Multiple perspectives provide information, but too often disparate stakeholder agendas enter the discussion. Similar to Tommy and Dick Smothers’ mother, a designer for an organization page cannot usually accommodate all interests equally. Consequently, designers can face conflict or resentment over who gets picked for Home Page “top billing.” By being aware of this risk, and by taking early steps to address it, designers can diminish the effects of unproductive stakeholder agendas.

(1)    Steve Krug, in “Don’t Make Me Think – A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability,” emphasizes that above all, the designer must have a concept of “the big picture” that drives the Home Page content. Krug cautions against adding any Home Page content that distracts from a big picture of “what the site is.” Developing and communicating that picture sets the context for development decisions of what to include.

(2)    Explain to stakeholders that the purpose of the home page is to deliver the user to the featured (stakeholder) content pages, not to establish a hierarchy of worth.

(3)    Establishing and following systematic decision-making processes helps to legitimize organizational decisions on Home Page content.

(4)    Communicating that process to stakeholders before making decisions should lead to better control of Home Page content.

Thankfully, Smothers’ mother did not follow this advice, leading instead of one of the funniest comeback lines in comedy. For an information design, however, designing a purposeful and productive Home Page requires us to be kind to all of our “children” by considering and addressing organizational stakeholder interests.

—Brian Wyneken