The truth will set you free, unless it turns out to be fake news. From memes stating that entering your ATM PIN backwards will alert authorities that you are being mugged, and The Onion reports taken seriously, there is a lot of junk out there in the world wide web that was created with the sole purpose of getting a rise out of people, or worse, sparking them into action by spreading easy to believe rumor and lies. A sucker is born every minute, or so it goes, which is why I tend to fact check anything that comes from suspicious or incredulous sources. My friends may hate me for it but I am not about to let them throw away street cred because they shared bad content.
Trust, but verify. – Ronald Reagan quote of a Russian proverb.
According to experts from MIT, and their findings as quoted by Yahoo Finance (click here for article), these are some of the reasons our social media newsfeeds and emails/IMs end up with so many fake news:
- Whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1000 people, the top 1% of false-news cascades routinely diffused to between 1000 and 100,000 people.
- It took the truth about six times as long as falsehood to reach 1500 people.
- Falsehood also diffused significantly more broadly and was retweeted by more unique users than the truth at every cascade depth.
- False political news also diffused deeper more quickly and reached more than 20,000 people nearly three times faster than all other types of false news reached 10,000 people.
“It’s well understood that there’s a bias to our sharing negative over positive news, and also a bias to sharing surprising over unsurprising news.”
Geez! No wonder Reality TV is popular and Fox News gained traction during the 2016 election term. Even the smartest people in the room can be seduced by their own biases, sharing information they find surprising and alluing to them. This is why Snopes.com and Wikipedia/Encyclopedia resources come in handy, if you can believe their experts are giving you the objective facts about the subject matter you are researching. As long as there are misinformed people and widespread misinformation, we will need to take a step back and check our sources before posting or sharing data.
Convinience is the one thing we have to be weary of when disseminating facts and opinions. Just because it sounds right doesn’t mean it is accurate. Just because it makes sense doesn’t mean it has value or merit. Check yourself before you wreck your reputation. People will rather block, unfriend or silence your posts than tell you that your memes are garbage or that your opinion was based on misguided principles. Adulting extends to being responsible for what you say, and how you make others feel or relate to you. Be mindful of how you communicate with others and of what you share.
The truth is out there…