Phyllis Zimbler Miller – Social Media Responsibility in the Time of Plague

In the online world that most of us have been “living in” for the last several weeks — the updates on social media have become a main source of interaction.

And yet many people do not realize the possible harm that can result from their fired-off tweets, Facebook comments, etc.

First, there is the ease with which we share tweets or posts or even newspaper articles without knowing whether this shared information is accurate. As someone pointed out to me, one of the reasons my husband and I continue to disagree over what is happening is that we utilize different news sources.

When I earned a B.A. in Journalism at Michigan State University, we were taught to be objective. That journalism mandate now appears to have flown out the window.

Thus even if we personally are committed to not fanning the flames by spreading misinformation, we may be unintentionally doing so.

Second, there’s the intentional spreading of our own views, which of course we are entitled to do. Yet, we do need to act responsibly. If we are for or against what the President has just said or done, we need to express our opinions in ways that will not inflame the situation. We need to be constructive.

For example, I was very upset by the June 1st photo I saw of Trump, the Secret Service and others striding out of the White House grounds on their way to a church in DC. Not one person wore a mask except for a woman way back in the throng who was barely visible.  What a terrible “message” about the need for continued safety precautions against COVID-19.

Now if I had tweeted what idiots all these people were, what good would that have done?  Better if I had tweeted the photo with the accompanying comment that it is important to remember to wear masks and practice social distancing in our own activities. (I actually didn’t tweet about this photo, although I sent it to a dear friend because I was so upset at the lack of masks and social distancing.)

And then there’s the issue of simply sharing the photo on social media. Even if I had added a comment about the negative behavior in the photo, as pictures speak louder than words, I would have been sharing a photo that appears to suggest that masks and social distancing are no longer needed.

Okay, although I realize this is a lot of discussion on one photo, I do think it is a good example of how we have to think of the possible unintended consequences before we click “retweet” or “share” on social media.

And then there’s the question of social media making us feel unhappy about ourselves …

Until I attended an in-person event (long before the COVID-19 lockdowns) at which Jessica Abo spoke about her book UNFILTERED: HOW TO BE AS HAPPY AS YOU LOOK ON SOCIAL MEDIA, I had no idea that other people’s “shares” on social media could be distressful.

As Abo pointed out, when someone posts a photo of a beautifully prepared salmon dish, what isn’t posted are photos of the messy kitchen, the sauce that burned the pan, the earlier mistakes that had to be tossed. (It would be more responsible for the poster to admit the effort it took to achieve this “perfect” dish.”)

Now especially in this anxiety-prone era we should consider not posting things without an explanation so that we don’t make others feel badly.

And as to feeling badly, we need to remind ourselves that photos have been “doctored” probably since the beginning of photography. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves when we see “perfect” photos and info shared on social media.

That said, I’m going back to my compulsive reading of COVID-19 headlines on – and trying to stay calm in the midst of uncertainty.

Wishing you all good health and that you are staying safe ….

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is an author and screenwriter in Los Angeles. She can be reached through her website at

Phyllis Zimbler Miller

Screenwriter * Author

Skype: PhyllisZimblerMiller12

Member of Women in Film

Member of Military Writers Society of America




Comments 3

  1. Phyllis, it is important to consider what others will see and think when we post and re-post. I’ve tried to stay away from the very sensitive topics, but…when it comes to our constitutional rights, I have taken a stand.

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