One of the main problems a lot of people will agree on within the paranormal field is that there are no regulations. There is no official qualification from an official body to become a paranormal investigator. It is mostly an unproven field and there is a lot of information based purely on a person's beliefs and experiences. Anyone can do an interview in a magazine or on tv. Anyone can make a Facebook page or write articles online. Anyone can start a YouTube channel or podcast. Anyone can even self-publish a book on amazon these days (hey I've done it too!). It is this openness that makes the paranormal field welcoming to pretty much everyone. It doesn't matter where you have come from, you can have a place in the field - even with little experience. While this is a perk of the paranormal field and one of the reasons I encourage people to join in on, it can also be one of its biggest flaws when it comes to misinformation. It is why we all have a responsibility, not only to ourselves but to the paranormal field in general to ensure that the information that we are presenting is educated, informed, transparent and genuine.
In general, people within the paranormal field have more of a public platform than ever before. We can post our questions and supposed evidence in Facebook groups for others to pick apart. We can tweet our thoughts. We can upload videos of our investigations to YouTube, and we can live stream our thoughts all across social media. There will always be at least someone taking notice of what you do. With this comes great responsibility.
What if the person that is watching these videos or reading your thoughts is someone that is starting to navigate their way through the complicated paranormal field? They don't necessarily know where to start, so they start searching for as much information as they possibly can. Perhaps they stumbled across an article on a website of a paranormal group. A lot of groups have their own websites and often they contain what is like a paranormal glossary. It has their interpretation of what an EVP is or what the Stonetape theory is etc. What happens though if the information written is not entirely correct? What if the publisher of the site doesn't have a proper understanding of what these things really are or how they work? Really you are looking at their interpretation and that is fine because I mean that is what my whole website is, my interpretation of things. What I try to do however is to be transparent and offer information from all different sides of an argument so that the reader can make up their mind with resources they can use to do their own research. Most people are pretty genuine in what they do and the work they present. While some are more research or even academic based, the majority of the field is mostly people sharing their own thoughts based on their experiences and it is a space where some great discussions and even learning can take place.
Having a social media presence is a lot of work and there are some people that do it really well. There is a reason why some pages have hundreds of thousands of likes or subscribers. It is because they are really good at putting out content that their followers enjoy. I follow many of them because they do it so well. It does mean however there are people that want to 'fast track' their social media success or are purely focused on the subs or likes and may do whatever it takes to get them. They may post a video to YouTube that is edited in a way to imply something paranormal has happened when they know it didn't. Boring videos won't get as many subscribers or likes right, so they think there is no harm in embellishing things just a little bit? Maybe they want to get lots of likes on Facebook so they think there is no harm posting a photo that they know is fake, but they won't state it is fake, the intention is just to get more people on the page and then they post 'real' stuff (almost like a bait and switch). What happens though is the people ready to learn and are searching for information are going to see these things and take it on board. This is where the spread of misinformation starts. They suddenly have a skewed view of the field based on what they have seen because they don't know any different. While you may think it is harmless, it can be damaging to the field as a whole.
While there is a lot of misinformation out there, we need to look at ourselves first and foremost and how we conduct ourselves. It can even be as simple as replying to a comment on a Facebook post. If you are quoting information that is relevant to the paranormal field, we have a responsibility as representatives of the paranormal field to ensure that this information is correct. Back up your claims with facts. It can become increasingly difficult when discussions are belief-based. If you are a person that is led by religion, it is important to understand that not everyone follows your religion. It doesn't make your belief wrong, it makes it different to someone else's. If you are a person led by experience, it is important to understand that a lot of people require proof, not just your word for it. If you are a skeptical person, it is important to understand that someone genuinely believes they have had a paranormal experience and they are looking to talk to like minded individuals, not be ridiculed over something that may have taken them a lot of courage to talk about. They aren't going to respond well with a tone implying they are crazy. We have all been on the receiving end of someone throwing abuse and nothing constructive and generally we will discard it from the beginning because of the aggressive approach. So where does it leave us? How on earth can we all co-exist with such different belief systems with no universally accepted proof?
The answer is respect and integrity. Even if someone has a different opinion, treat them with respect. If you have the information, present it to them in a respectful way to help educate. If you are arrogant in your approach, they most likely won't take it in. Be honest about who you are and what it is you do. There is no such thing as a paranormal expert, so don't pretend to be one. If you are confident enough to present your research publicly in the form of education, make sure you are presenting the correct information. Anyone can hold a lecture relating to the paranormal. While people attend them to learn, it is the responsibility of the speaker to not only present a talk that people will find entertaining enough to sit through for an hour, but the information HAS to be correct. At a certain point, a lot of paranormal researchers take on the role of trying to educate people within the field. It is a natural evolution as we all have to start somewhere and usually, someone starting out turns to someone with more experience. I know I did it, and many of you did too when you first started out. While this is great and imperative to the development of the field, it is important that they are educated with information that is correct. In a lot of ways there is always going to be some bias, but encourage people to do their own research and form their own opinions along the way. Encourage them to think. Point them in the right direction but most importantly encourage people to ask questions. If they disagree with you, it doesn't mean they are wrong just because you have more experience. Looking at things from a different perspective can give great insight, which brings me to the final point.
When you are new to the field and want to learn, how do you know who to listen to? There are a lot of people in the paranormal field that are really good at talking. I have alluded to this in the past because we have all met them. They are the type of person that could literally convince someone that the sky was purple. Just because someone is good at talking, doesn't necessarily mean the information they are talking about is correct. It is where the person receiving the information needs to start asking questions. I think in general we as a field need to be asking more questions and stop taking the information we are given at face value. If for example, someone is talking to you about a paranormal theory. Start asking questions. What are their beliefs? What research have they conducted on the matter? What historical information do they know about the theory? Very quickly, you will be able to tell the people who know what they are talking about, compared to the 'talkers'. They will like that you are challenging and asking questions, not trying to make you feel like you don't have a voice because even if you are new, you have a wealth of information and perspective to contribute.
While you may feel that you don't have a responsibility in the field, remember every post that you do on social media is a statement. Every YouTube video can have an effect on an impressionable newbie. The way you conduct yourself on an investigation is equally important. People are always watching and learning, even if they are not commenting on your page, they are still taking notice. There is a lot of politics and sometimes bitchiness that happens in the field. Everyone has their own story and while you may hear certain things about other people in the field, judge it from your own experiences of them. People can twist things to fit a narrative or may just have it in for another person for the silliest of reasons. It is not your battle. Stay out of the drama and focus on the work itself.
Regardless of how long you have been a part of the paranormal field, you may not think you have an impact but you do. You may not think your voice is important but it is. Choose your words wisely and represent your field with honesty and integrity. Do things in a way that reflect you and what you believe in. It won't be for everyone and that is fine because the people who are following and listening are the people that resonate with your message. You won't get through to everyone, but the best way you can get your message across is not only through your voice, but from your actions as well. Don't just talk to the talk, walk it as well.
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