2. Resist confirmation bias. That juicy headline that confirms what you already believe to be true about that politician or celebrity or religious leader you are already predisposed to dislike? Resist posting or spreading it until you have time to confirm its veracity. Before we join a digital lynch mob, we should gather more information. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t speak out against injustice or evil, but that we should slow down. I’m suggesting we should refuse to automatically believe every bad news story about people we don’t like and refuse to automatically accept every good news story about people we do like. If you write off negative stories about your heroes and positive stories about your enemies as fake news, you help build the tribalized echo chamber that makes civility difficult.
3. Give others the benefit of the doubt. We live in a cynical age, born out of disillusionment with major institutions of public life. This disappointment is not unwarranted, as it seems leadership at all levels has let us down at some level in the past few years. Many are wondering who, if anyone, in public life they can trust. But before we pile on, before we self-righteously tweet, we should ask ourselves: How would I like to be treated if this story were about me? Would I want people to wait to confirm the details before believing the worst about me? Remember this: One day you might be piling on to “crush” someone; the next day you may be the target of a smear campaign yourself. So let’s give the benefit of the doubt that we hope people would give us if we were the target.