My question is similar to this except the person is usually not passionate about it.

I have friends who post things about vaccines causing autism, how bell peppers have different genders and other pseudoscience stuff.

I respect and love my friends so I don’t want to put them on the attack, so the pepper thing I can let go of. However, recently, three sisters who are my friends saw and shared links about vaccines containing some chemical (I don’t remember) and then they chose, based on this information, not to get the flu vaccine this year. Their father, who is housebound nearly died of pneumonia from the flu (very lucky!)

I don’t want to be a jerk and say, “you’re wrong”, but I don’t enjoy seeing really poor “science” being shared. These people aren’t passionate about these things but are rather just not learning about the vaccine debate. It’s easy to get sucked into these, I know.

How can I educate my friends and perhaps get them to do their own research on claims without sounding arrogant or hurting their feelings? I would love it if they walked away feeling positive about the interaction.

Any advice?

  • May I know how close you're with your friends? Also, are those three sisters your known or friends?
    – A J
    Jan 31, 2018 at 6:07
  • there was a question about worries about getting a flu shot on health stackexchange -> might be interesting for you: health.stackexchange.com/questions/15061/… Jan 31, 2018 at 6:56
  • 1
    Getting your friends not to post weak science on social media is not going to stop 3 sisters from finding weird stuff on the Internet and making odd conclusions.
    – paparazzo
    Jan 31, 2018 at 9:00
  • ...why the scare quotes around "shared"?
    – user428517
    Jan 31, 2018 at 16:43
  • 1
    @Aaron Have you looked up what "scare quotes" means? I didn't invent the term.
    – user428517
    Feb 1, 2018 at 19:01

3 Answers 3


How can I educate my friends and perhaps get them to do their own research [...]

Imo the whole answer to your question is in the word I bolded in the statement I quoted from you above.

Educate them (or, at least, try).

Start by providing a link to material: I suggest not to blindly counter them with a weak "You're wrong", I'd go with a

Well, I'd love you to take a look at [link] which might shed some lights on different perspectives.

That's what I do each and everytime I meet fake news. This way you:

  • are not abruptly attacking them;
  • provide documentation;
  • show them that, searching, some documentation (and likely different point of views) might actually surface;

If it's friends or sisters you're speaking about, they might actually pay attention to you and, at least, try and read.

After that, well... wise people WILL read and consider what they have read, regardless whether they decide to change their mind in the end or not. Stupid/blind-minded people will NOT consider whatever you say or show them so, in that case, in the end, it's all about their stupidity/blind-mindedness, it's nothing about the words you choose to say or the documentation you provide: there's no way to change that kind of people.


Like many "telling someone they're wrong" issues, you could distance yourself from possible conflict by trying to sympathize with why they might be sharing this. You could try something such as:

"I saw this earlier and was really (insert emotional response from watching video - shocked/upset/angry)! I started looking up more info about it and thankfully found that (insert your facts)."

I personally favor this approach because people are more likely to feel invited to discuss with you, and at least look at your sources, if you acknowledge how believable the claim is (even if it seems ridiculous to you, acknowledge how it could be believable by someone who isn't as educated on the topic). This acknowledgement can minimize the risk of people feeling stupid, as though you're putting them down.

So in summary: Be relatable! The best teachers in life are the ones who teach from the point of views of their student, because the students feel comfortable enough to ask more questions to fully understand the topic at hand.

  • 1
    I like this “invitation” method. That’s really helpful. Feb 1, 2018 at 0:57

One thing I read about debating/arguing that struck me was this:

The goal of any disagreement isn't to win over the person you're arguing with, but to help someone else who has never thought about the topic at hand


The TL;DR of that is; Don't argue/browbeat, discuss the issue with them instead.

When someone is clearly wrong about something on an emotional topic, telling them they are wrong isn't going to work. They're likely to just link to the first source they find (without reading) and call it a day.

Your best call of action is one of a few things politely, try to seem impartial and just curious:

  • Ask them questions about it that get them to think through the whole process, i.e 'Which chemicals cause autism? How? Why would doctors do that? What benefit does it give society to do this?"

  • Ask them to provide a source, then ask them to explain why the source is correct. This might prompt them to read it and realize it's bogus.

Like the article says, you're unlikely to convince someone immediately. But you'll make them and others watching think about their own convictions, that's all that matters in some cases.

If the person thinks they've come to these conclusions by themselves, they're going to be more receptive than just being told they're wrong.

Another really great video is this one by Charisma on Command, about the recent Channel 4 interview with Jordan Peterson. It goes over how he managed to come off so well in a similar(ish) situation.


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