What I Learned When the Anti-Vaccine Community Came After Me Online
Dec 09, 2020
By Dr. Nicole Baldwin
It was a typical Tuesday. I was enjoying my morning off work and checking some of my social media notifications when I noticed that a post on my Facebook page was getting a lot of attention.
Four days earlier I had created a video on TikTok promoting vaccines. That video had gone viral on TikTok and Twitter, so I had created a post on Facebook about vaccines as well. Initially, most of the comments on the post were very supportive and pro-vaccine.
But that morning, Tuesday, January 14th, 2020, a large group from the anti-vaccine community found my post. Notification after notification flooded my inbox — most of which contained the same misinformation that I’ve seen on social media time and time again – comments that “heavy metals in vaccines are toxic,” “vaccines are dangerous,” “doctors are paid by Big Pharma to give vaccines,” etc.
While many comments became personal and sometimes threatening, never did I consider removing my post. I knew the importance of vaccines, the importance of my message, and the necessity to stand my ground in the midst of a firestorm. I was able to get help from an amazing group of volunteers who, over the course of 2 weeks, helped to monitor and ban users from my Facebook page who made threatening or bullying comments or who posted blatant misinformation about vaccines.
While in the midst of a flood of negative comments, it may seem that the voice of the anti-vaccine movement is the majority — but we know that this is simply not true. The majority of Americans DO support vaccines and vaccinate their children…
Unfortunately, I was not the first, nor will I be the last vaccine supporter that finds themselves subject to anti-vaccine comments on social media. Is this a reason not to post about vaccines? Absolutely NOT! While in the midst of a flood of negative comments, it may seem that the voice of the anti-vaccine movement is the majority — but we know that this is simply not true. The majority of Americans DO support vaccines and vaccinate their children, and it’s important that they hear our voices just as loud (actually LOUDER) than those who do not support vaccines.
What should you do if you find yourself subject to negative comments on your social media post about vaccines?
Take a moment to pause before you react to any anti-vaccine comments.
#2 COUNTER MISINFORMATION WHEN POSSIBLE
Many people may simply be misinformed about vaccines, so if you are able to take the time to try to correct that information with evidence-based information about vaccines, that’s great.
#3 DON’T ARGUE
Some people may be so entrenched in their beliefs, that going back and forth will do nothing but cause frustration… if a discussion is going nowhere, it’s OK to walk away and even block that user (if you are comfortable with that).
#4 GET HELP
There are multiple Facebook groups and other organizations whose main focus is to help people who find themselves subject to a flood of anti-vaccine comments on their post.
#5 SCREENSHOT, REPORT, DELETE/BAN ANY THREATS
Some users choose to use bullying tactics and threats to get their message across. It’s important to report these users and keep screenshots for your own evidence – but then feel free to ban those users from your page to prevent further threats/bullying.
#6 DON’T GIVE UP
It’s easy to feel beat down and defeated when you come under attack from anti-vaccine activists, so much so that you may feel the desire to take your post down or not post about vaccines again. PLEASE do not do this — the anti-vaccine community would love nothing more than to quiet our pro-vaccine, science-based voices. It’s important that we continue to spread evidence-based information amid the sea of misinformation online!!
It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since that fateful Tuesday. Even though I faced some of the hardest days of my life during that time, I would absolutely do it again!
Nicole Baldwin, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician and vaccine advocate in Ohio. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.
For help addressing misinformation about vaccines, visit the Questions about Vaccines section of the Vaccinate Your Family website, and our social pages — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
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