My friends, I love you. But I seriously need you to stop falling for fake news on the interwebs. I mean, seriously. No, they did not find a mermaid off the coast of Jamaica. And no, there has not been a UFO siting in Japan. And for the love of all that is good, NO, Facebook is not going to delete your account unless you copy and paste a poorly worded status update.
The thing about hoax news is that it can be damaging. That’s right. I said DAMAGING.
Ask the teens, from Durban, who can’t leave home because someone played a prank on them by posting their pics on Facebook with the caption “look out for these two, they are stealing children”. Do you guys know that in India, atleast 20 people have lost their lives due to mob justice because of Facebook hoaxes of this nature?
And what about the mother and daughter whose pic was stolen from a social website, and then used in an article claiming they are having a sexual relationship. Not such a fun time for them, I’m sure. Heck, I’ve even been the target of a Cat-fisher – you know, someone who has used my own photos, to spread lies. It happens. And when we unknowingly share these stories and articles, without checking the facts, we become a catalyst – part of the PROBLEM and not the solution.
And I hear you, friends. You don’t mean to cause harm. You actually want to help out, which is why you’re sharing that article warning your friends not to flicker their head lights at night because it’s a gang initiation. And I totally get where you’re coming from. I mean, sure, I want to be kept informed too.
But if you’re telling me that they attempted to rip a child away from his father, in a mall in Cape Town, you’re making me paranoid about having my own kid ripped from my own arms. What you didn’t tell me is that the guy shoplifted and the undercover security guards were trying to apprehend him.
And sure, I want to know about missing people and want to do my part, by sharing the information. But friends, if the person was found like, 6 years ago, then WHY are we still re-sharing these posts?! Surely there are more urgent reports that need our attention? Checking the date/facts literally takes a couple of minutes.
Please, don’t get me wrong, my lovely friends. I want to be kept informed with the latest news. I really do. But please don’t tell me about impending disasters, fake diseases I can catch in elevators, fake comets about to hit earth and fake reports about poisonous foods on the shelves of our favorite stores if you haven’t double checked the news source and date of the report.
The scary truth is this:
1. Fake news travels faster than real news.
2. The fake news is usually quite horrifying/scary/freaky, and it has the potential to unsettle a large amount of people, unnecessarily.
3. Fake news can create an under-confidence in, say for example, the police force or your local government or even your schooling system. And hey, this isn’t an open door for a debate. I’m not asking you what your thoughts are on these institutions. All I’m saying is, don’t spread lies about it.
4. Fake news comes with a price, you guys. It lowers our trust in actual journalism, it lessens the value of actual scientific research, it damages the reputation of businesses who might not deserve the backlash and it creates a misinformed public who then makes decisions based on the wrong information.
5. It’s just not lekker man.
So that’s all I have to say about that. Do the right thing.