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  • Shannon Watson

10 Commitments to Improve My Relationship with Information

We all know that our political environment is challenging right now. The two prominent sides are far apart, and those in the middle are getting lost in the noise. Its ugly and confusing and hard to deal with. I would also argue, though, it's necessary.

Our collective relationship with information is in question in a way that I couldn't have imagined even a few years ago. We're learning that a lack of common standards and norms is incredibly destabilizing. But this is also an opportunity to examine the way we approach information, facts, and even the concept of truth, and articulate our values.

We all have a part to play in improving our civic culture, in person and online. I'm not going to tell anyone else how to act or how to approach this problem, but I will share the ten commitments I'm making to improve my relationship with political information, and the people with whom I interact in the political arena.

1. I will give space to examine and debate complicated ideas and interactions. I will welcome the next ten words.

2. I will reward leaders - both those with titles and without - for telling the truth. No matter how hard it is to say or to hear, and no matter how politically inconvenient. 

3. I will not shame or ostracize those who have become a victim of lies. I will not isolate those who genuinely believe erroneous information, but will try to help them get verifiable facts from credible sources. (This does not include those who know the difference between the truth and a lie and and choose to perpetuate disinformation.)

4. I will not allow the actions of one person to affect an entire group who's membership is not easily controlled. I will, however, hold group leadership accountable for articulating group values. 

5. I will commit to radical transparency. I will model the behavior I'm asking others to adopt. 

6. I will verify information that comes from questionable sources before sharing, and if I don't have time to verify, I will not share. 

7. I will not deliberately spread misinformation -- even and especially to ridicule it -- and will not give amplification to those who do. 

8. I will support real media outlets and reporters who employ codes of ethics and editorial control.

9. I will support those reporters and outlets who get a story right, not necessarily get it first. I will not punish or ridicule those who make mistakes, if those mistakes are disclosed and not made out of malice or carelessness.  

10. I will reserve my "outrage" for situations that are actually outrageous. 

What else am I missing? What steps are you taking to improve your relationship with information?

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