If you want to see how willing people are to share and push absolute misinformation, things lacking all intelligent backing or facts, just sign up for Facebook. In our culture, emotions run high, and discernment is at an all time low. People simply don’t think before leaping to the defense of someone, sharing an article, or backing a statement.
The problem with this is that discernment is the KEY to creating a trustworthy reputation for yourself.
Discernment lets you look at a politician or pundit that has both good moments and bad, and only support the good instead of the entire thing. It’s what let voters in the 2016 Presidential Election say, “YES, Donald Trump’s crude comments toward women are horrific. I don’t support them, but I do support his tax plan.” It’s what allows any of us to find credibility in a world where all people, ideas, and institutions are incredibly flawed.
I faced this myself recently. One of my favorite lines is, “If you never find yourself disagreeing with someone, you don’t support them-you’re idolizing them.” I’m careful to not throw blanket support out for anyone, not even the politicians I campaign for. I become even more cautious when the person in question has done or said questionable things.
Enter Kellyanne Conway. Now, Kellyanne is a remarkable woman, rising from adversity and becoming the first woman to run a successful presidential campaign. Yet, as her job is to defend President Donald Trump and make him look good, she has a tendency to do whatever it takes to reach that goal. Questionable things like ‘alternative facts’ and ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ have been said on national media, and I think that it’s important to hold her accountable for these statements, even if they are slip-ups.
However, there are also times and places where I defend and back Kellyanne wholeheartedly; this whole ‘Couchgate’ ridiculousness is a prime example. I tweeted something out in support of Kellyanne the other day. Promptly after I tweeted it, a liberal friend of mine responded, saying,
“You do realize that this is the woman who faked a massacre on national T.V. right?”
Now, this provides a great example as to why a trustworthy reputation can only be built through discernment. If I had defended Kellyanne in the whole Bowling Green Massacre media debacle instead of saying, “It was a slip-up, but it was on national T.V. and she needs to be held accountable for it,” I would have zero credibility with this person to defend Kellyanne when I did. Instead of being able to reply and let her know that yes, I am aware of the Bowling Green incident, and no, I didn’t support her at that point but support her now when she’s clearly in the right, I would have been left squirming and trying to reason as to why Kellyanne was right in both situations.
Another great example is whether or not you share an article without looking at the source or fact checking at all. Granted, there are some pieces of journalism that don’t require this, but so much that is currently circulating on social media is nonfactual, yet continues to circle because people refuse to do some basic fact checking before they share. Are people going to view you as trustworthy if you share something factual when all you’ve been sharing is false garbage?
It may not seem like our reputations are staked on our discernment, but they really are. What you share, what you back, and whether or not you put high value on actual facts speaks volumes about who you are. Let’s work on bringing some discernment back to this culture; not only will it help you develop a trustworthy reputation, but you will be upping the standard for those who surround you as well.