Voices for Action

How to tackle misinformation when it’s coming from a loved one

Bad actors on various social media platforms are actively spreading misinformation, from anti-science to straight up climate denial. And we’re committed to combating it.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your help to combat misinformation.

How, you ask? It’s as simple as talking to your family and friends about it, and making sure they’re prepared with the facts.

First, it’s important to pick your battles. Not everyone is open to changing their mind and frankly, not everyone is worth your time. That’s why it’s best to focus on your friends and family, rather than a stranger on the internet. But make sure to consider the setting. Some people shut down if they are called out in public — so know your audience.

Try this: Consider your potential to make an impact before engaging with a friend or family member. Speak to them in private so it feels less like an attack.

And remember, the strength of the relationship matters. It’s much easier to listen to someone you know and trust, someone who has already demonstrated that they care about you. It’s also easier to relate to someone you have shared experiences with.

Try this: Start by telling them how much you value your relationship, maybe even reminisce about a mutual memory to remind them (and yourself) that you care about them.

Make sure to understand their motivation before focusing on the content. When someone shares a piece of “fake news,” it is usually driven by confirmation bias. They already believe in a worldview that the content supports. They might feel it helps explain who they are. Now imagine how you’d feel if someone questioned your worldview.

Try this: Acknowledge that neither of you want to be tricked by “fake news,” that it’s happening on everyone’s feeds and you are both looking for sources you can trust.

It’s important to enter into a dialogue, rather than a lecture. To get anywhere, you have to treat them as an equal. Acting as if you are right and they are wrong will only strengthen their views and push you further apart.

Try this: Offer to trade sources. For each of their sources you read, they should read one of yours.

Don’t forget, it’s a conversation where you must show empathy. People who share disinformation are likely feeling afraid or like nothing is in their control. That’s why it thrives, as we know all too well, during periods of civil unrest and pandemics. Recognize this in your response and show kindness instead of anger. Ask them questions about how they feel and acknowledge their answers. When we feel seen, heard, and understood, we are much more willing to open our hearts and minds. We all need this in our relationships, no matter what we’re talking about, right?

Try this: Find common ground. Whether it’s that you both care about keeping your family safe or want to breathe clean air, start with a basic viewpoint you share and build from there.

Remember change is hard! Don’t expect someone to change after one or even several discussions. Human behavior is hard to change, so the more achievable goal is to make sure you have an open line of communication with this person. Focus on those you care about and practice having open-minded discussions about misinformation instead of fights.

Try this: Set a limit for how long your discussions last but have them more often. That will help take the anxiety out of family events and, who knows? Maybe it will strengthen your bond!

The fight to combat misinformation has to be a coordinated, community-wide approach that allows us to not only identify the spread of anti-science and straight up climate lies but also start to inoculate against it by making sure our family and friends don’t fall victim to its spread.

And of course, sign-up to join our misinformation brigade to help us tackle climate misinformation today.