It’s the new cool kid thing to do: Declare that the time has come to leave Facebook, complete with a long post about how it’s not working anymore, it’s too corrupted, it’s no longer fun.
Mandy Jenkins thinks people, especially reporters, should reconsider. In fact, she says leaving Facebook or social media in general is the last thing journalists should do.
“Why are you leaving and letting the disinformation providers take it over?” she asked. “The more we leave, the more they’re going to have the market share of attention.”
Jenkins currently is a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University. In addition to taking courses, all fellows work on a research question, publishing a report at the end of their term. For Jenkins, an early adopter of social media and an unabashed and unashamed social media junkie, she’s taking a closer look at fake news and the people who make and spread it.
“We can we learn from fake news purveyors as real news purveyors,” she says. “I’m going out and talking to people who have shared misinformation before, really getting into their media habits, what they think about social media, the media in general, and I’ll distill that down into a report I’ll put out at the end of my fellowship.”
Facebook is no saint, Jenkins admitss. She understands the impulse to leave, but every time a journalist leaves, “a little part of me dies inside. Other people are still here. I’m still here. As a friend, I still want to know what’s going on with you,” but she’s not inclined to follow those people to whatever new, unfamiliar platform they’re going to, and it’s unlikely their readers will follow them either.
Many journalists will use Facebook to not only post their work but to interact with friends and family, blurring the line between personal and professional. It can be difficult to find the right balance, but when it’s done well, it can be a very useful tool and a great way to lead conversations, she says.
“It’s really hard work to do social media well,” Jenkins said. “You have to be a conversation leader to make Facebook work. You have to go in, ask questions, take on some hard questions from other people, even get into the fray a little bit and sometimes break up fights between other people. That goes for family and friends as well as readers and peers you interact with on Facebook. It takes time but it can be so valuable.”