How to tackle misinformation when it’s coming from a loved one
Bad actors and misguided readers on social media platforms are actively spreading misinformation, from anti-science diatribes to straight-up climate denial. And we’re committed to combating it.
But we can’t do it alone. We need your help to keep misinformation from blocking progress.
How, you ask? It’s as simple as talking to your family and friends, and making sure they’re prepared with the facts.
1. 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 your energy on your friends and family rather than a stranger on the internet. And 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. And speak to them gently, in private, so it doesn't feel like an attack.
2. The strength of your 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 you) that you care about them.
3. Understand their motivation before focusing on the content.
When someone shares a piece of “fake news,” it's usually driven by confirmation bias: They already believe in the worldview that content supports, so 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 wants to be tricked by “fake news,” that it’s happening on everyone’s feeds and that you’re both looking for sources you can trust.
4. Enter into a dialogue, not a lecture.
To get anywhere, you need to treat them as an equal. Acting as if you’re right and they’re wrong will only strengthen their views and push the two of you further apart.
Try this: Offer to trade sources. For each of their sources you read, they should read one of yours.
5. Show empathy.
People who share disinformation are likely feeling afraid or as if nothing is in their control. That’s why disinformation thrives during periods of civil unrest and pandemics. So show kindness instead of anger. Ask 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.
Try this: Find common ground. Whether it’s that you both care about keeping your families safe or want to breathe clean air, start with a basic viewpoint you know you share and build from there.
6. Remember, change is hard!
Don’t expect someone to change after one or even several discussions. Human behavior is difficult to shift, so the more achievable goal is to make sure you nurture 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 time limit for how long your discussions last, but have them more often. That will help take the anxiety out of family and friend events. And who knows? It could strengthen your bond!
Combating misinformation has to be a coordinated, community-wide effort that allows us to not only identify anti-science “news” and straight-up climate lies but also inoculate against its spread by making sure our families and friends don’t fall victim to it.
This is important work that needs all hands on deck if we hope to shape a better future. So please join our Anti-Misinformation Brigade to be part of the solution — let’s tackle climate change misinformation so we can move forward together!