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  • Pauline Hoffmann

New Year's Resolutions? Let's Talk...

It's a new year. I was thinking about how to approach this issue of the newsletter. Yes, I could do what everybody does and write about my new year's resolutions. They are nearly the same each year. Sometimes I stick to them; sometimes I do not.

I know that sounds familiar.

Let me suggest instead that we discuss new year's resolutions we can all easily commit and stick to. Let's call them infodemiology resolutions or "let's dis disinformation." According to Healthline, it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days, average of 66, to form a habit. That's quite a spread but suffice to say developing and maintaining new habits are contingent on a number of factors. I won't go into them here.

I'm not going to discuss how long it takes to develop a new habit like exercising and losing weight. I have yet to develop the habit so I can't even tell you where that falls in the grand scheme. I will report back, I hope, before September 11 (day 254 and an auspicious day, to be sure).

Here are five things we can all easily commit to in 2023. No pain at all but much gain.

1. Care before you share.

I've said it before and will say it every day (hey, perhaps that's my habit), don't share something on social media or anywhere before making sure it is legitimate. Care before you share.

A story I like to share to illustrate this point is a recent Twitter post by Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau. He tweeted (or his people did because I don't believe he's sitting around using his own Twitter account, though I could be wrong) "Canada denounces the Iranian regime’s barbaric decision to impose the death penalty on nearly 15,000 protestors."

Of course Canada would. So would any sane country. The problem? The Iranian regime didn't do what he claimed. (I won't get into the atrocities being committed in Iran here.) It was on Justin Trudeau's Twitter page for 12 hours. He has 6.3 million followers including actress Viola Davis who shared it on her Twitter account with 1.8 million followers.

Not all of those followers saw that particular tweet before Trudeau's team removed it but it is out there in cyberspace. It is being shared. That is just one example of how misinformation may rapidly spread if we don't take care.

2. Think before you speak

I've written about how to talk to people in our circles who may believe conspiracies or misinformation. Much of that requires that we think before we speak. We shouldn't just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Remember, also, that somethings are better left unsaid. Just because you think it doesn't mean you should say it. By all means, think what you like. But think about what effect your statement, ideas or beliefs might have on the outcome of the conflict and/or conversation.

3. Remember, nobody is stupid

This one is probably the most difficult for me. When I talk to people I sometimes think, "damn, you're dumb," but then I am reminded that we are not all the same. We don't all have the same backgrounds. We don't all have the same belief systems (religious, political, cultural, etc.). We are, however, all human. We all, generally speaking, want the same basic things (remember Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?). We want safety, shelter, food, clothing, and other necessities. We may also want more than that but I think we can all agree to wanting the necessities. If we can understand the common ground it may help us. How we get there may differ but let's start with the basics.

Let's also remember that our life paths are likely different. That may include our own lives or the lives of our ancestors. Trauma-informed thinking is critical in understanding where people are coming from. If I use the example of health care in the United States, it's easy to dismiss those who may be reluctant to go to a doctor as stupid but remember that not all members of society have been treated well by the health care system. Trust is an issue.

4. Establish trust

I've talked about who we trust and who we do not trust and who/what is trusted globally. We may not be able to get everyone to trust the media, government or hospital systems, for example - holy hell, that would be an unattainable resolution - but can we determine who we trust? Can we take a look at those resources we trust and ensure we can still trust them? Can we establish trust with people we may not have in the past?

One of my goals for the year is to help people in my community better understand their own health and communicate what resources are available in our community for them. In order to do that I need to have an understanding of who and what they trust or don't and why. I then need to craft honest messages that will resonate with them. In order to do that, I need to establish trust. I will write more extensively on this in the coming months.

5. Don't forget you

In all of this, you may exhaust yourself. Self-care is health care (trust me). You cannot perform at your best and take care of others if you don't take care of yourself. Self care takes so many forms and will differ by individual. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa.

What do I do for self care? I read, a lot. If I don't read each day (a magazine, book chapters, the newspaper, whatever), my day is shot. It's a ritual - wait - it's a habit! What else? I like to cook a nice meal and eat it while drinking a nice glass of wine. I like to swim. I like to hike up our hill. I like to watch my chickens and duck. I like to play with my dogs. There are so many ways I practice self-care. What do you do?

I hope 2023 is happy, healthy and fruitful for you. I look forward to sharing information with you each week. Look for other exciting endeavors coming from Data Doyenne and other outlets. I will keep you informed here.


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