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How We Share Information

There’s a lot to be said about the information we share on the Internet when it comes to being a mother.

I know that for me, the moment I first held my son, my first born, the world became a pretty scary place. All of a sudden the articles, headlines, published studies and blogs were completely unnerving. The overabundance of information hit me so hard that, quite honestly, I wasn’t sure which information was right and which information was wrong.

The Share ButtonI started to notice trends on social media within my circle of mom friends. We were all quick to hit the “share” button on Facebook of an article. We’d even share one of those urgent posts that dealt with an urban myth, like, if you found a spider in your toilet, be careful because it is a rare spider that will bite you when you use the toilet and you will die!

Share! Share! Share! Share!

It made me realize how quick we are to share information without first checking the validity of said information, but to what detriment are we doing that? All too often I find posts about various studies, whether it’s about the benefits of breast milk, high protein diets, vegan diets, organic diets for our children, exercise, well visits and so on, and so many times these posts are shared with such alarm that it could frighten anyone who wouldn’t know better than to do her own research.

This is probably a good time to talk about correlation and causation.

Earlier this week, I read an excellent excerpt from a book that dealt with this very topic, and of course I was very quick to share this information to those in my social feeds because I felt it was an excellent piece that covered what this correlation versus causation is all about.

As moms, we tend to take correlation as actual fact, by mistake, of course, and shut our computers down and worry that we might have poisoned our child because we fed them inorganic milk. This is where the over sharing of information bites us all in the collective butt. One person takes a study that breaks down the correlation of inorganic milk and sick kids and the next thing you know, mothers everywhere are freaking out.

What the person doing the sharing failed to realize is that there is a correlation between the two, but it does not necessarily mean that inorganic milk makes a child sick. Those two things just happened to show up together and all that’s come out of this information is a lot of worried parents.

I’m married to a science teacher, so of course we tend to take the scientific route when it comes to how we process information and use it to the health of our family. We understand that, because a university conducted a study on the correlation between TV use and children under two, doesn’t necessarily mean that children under two who have been subjected to the TV are going to do terrible in school. The correlation may be there, but it’s not the cause of anything.

This is all science 101. We’ve all learned about the scientific process in grade school, so it amazes me that, in a digital era, why are we so quick to forget how these things work and why are we spreading a lot of misinformation?

It’s no wonder the media leaves us all in a state of panic; the way headlines are written these days are misleading, and once a mass of people are mislead, we find the sharing of misunderstandings pop up and the vicious cycle starts all over again.

For example, in the area I live in, we had a pretty alarming and sad situation where a teenager fell dead due to a heart virus that, as headlines suspected, was due to a rare but serious disease that originated from a tick bite. This had parents in an uproar, many of them saying in the comments section that they no longer wanted their children playing in the grass outside.

As a parent, the news was devastating. Two loving parents lost their son and they weren’t sure why. The mom in me wanted to pack up the family and move to Antarctica to avoid any and all insect life. The science and journalist me, of course, read the article a little more clearly and noticed that, as it was written, the virus may have been caused by a tick bite and the percentage of those who are bitten by said disease-carrying tick have less than a 6 percent chance of getting it. Science me starts to run the stats in my head and realizes that the odds are pretty darn low and, not to mention, they’re not even sure that this tick-borne disease is what, in fact, led to this boy’s death.

But the headlines went on, and mothers became afraid, and all that we could see as parents were “tick, disease, teenager, dead.” No wonder we were all freaked out. It’s really hard to decipher the statistics up against the scary stuff.

I think that it’s a good reminder for us all that we should always check information before we share it with each other.

The Internet is an amazing tool that has brought many of us moms together, and it has provided a platform for us to compare notes, so to speak, to ask questions and rely on each other to help fill in the informational gaps. The downside is the Internet has also become a platform for a lot of incorrect or misleading information, so much that social media has become one giant game of telephone. And we all know how that game ended when we were children.

We all fall into the information overload black hole. It’s good for your sanity to check the background of the posts that you read and yes, even the ones you share.

We’re all in this together, and together, we can all be well-informed with the Internet as a tool for good in our arsenal of information.

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