If you’ve been on Facebook at all in the last couple weeks, you’ve no doubt seen brooms magically standing all by themselves, some for hours on end. The purported reason for the phenomena is that the planets have aligned, thus tweaking the gravitational pull here on earth, temporarily allowing brooms to stand by themselves. Well, if you aren’t already aware, I hate to break the news but all of that information is false.
You see, brooms can stand on their own any time of the year; it doesn’t take a special planetary alignment to do so. That’s thanks to their low center of gravity and stiff bristles. Oh, and by the way, gullible is still in the dictionary.
In the last few years social media has taken the world by storm. It’s brought simple, fast communication to the entire world. We now have the ability to absorb more information than ever and we don’t have to spend a fortune on a set of encyclopedias to do so.
But, there is a problem. Somewhere along the way we got lazy in our vetting process. We sometimes fail to appreciate that in online communication, we lose the ability of intuition, where we might discern things not readily apparent in the written word alone, such as a telling glance or body language that can portray sarcasm. We want to be the first among friends to pass on information, to be a news source. As we rush through our busy lives, taking a moment to check out the latest up to the minute information, we see a post that seems logical, but isn’t, and decide to share it with others. In the blink of an eye, this false fact has gone viral, person after person failing to take a minute of their time to fact check.
Recently we’ve seen people attributed to quotes they didn’t actually say… a wealthy banker’s measly tip which turned out to be photoshopped, and a limitless string of false celebrity death reports. Now, though some of that misinformation sparked controversy and discussion, it didn’t hurt anybody, but other misinformation very well could have. During the recent school shooting in Ohio, students who were trapped in the school turned to social networks for answers. The problem was that multiple stories were being posted and no one knew the truth, which could have made an already dangerous situation even more so.
Today we have blazing fast, always on connections on our phones allowing us unlimited access to information. It’s all too easy to read a juicy tweet and instantly decide that others need to see it as well, unknowingly passing on false information, easily ruining someone’s career even if a correction is made. We literally have at our fingertips something that is changing the world for the better. We just need to take a step back and use some common sense and logic to really harness the power that social media offers. The internet has made the world into a small town and with that comes small town gossip multiplied. But we’ve got to be smart, look through the gossip and misinformation and become that tight knit community small towns can be.
Have an example of misinformation spreading via social media? Tell us about it in the comments.