If the Internet is good at anything, it’s spreading information really, really fast. It’s even been shown that the reports of an earthquake actually travel faster than the shock waves, acting as a sort of early warning system for people relatively close to the epicenter. Unfortunately, it’s also used to spread completely untrue things just as fast. I’ve seen an uptick of this lately, and it’s time to say something.
It takes all of about two minutes to search for a snippet of whatever story is being passed along to make sure it’s the real deal. I’ve seen fake accounts of missing kids, allegations of non-existent teachers being fired, and half-true stories that heap in a lot of speculation with the few facts reported. Most of these stories exploit your existing positions (read: confirmation bias”), the relative ease with which the information can be spread (even more so than the old-school email forward way of doing it), and/or your urge to help out someone in need. By spreading around things that can be quite easily proven untrue, nobody is going to take your seriously when a real kid goes missing or there’s a real scandal that should get greater visibility.
So, please, for your own good and the good of those around you, start exercising at least a small amount of skepticism and do at least a cursory check to make sure the information is true. Failing to do so just makes you look silly.
PS I left a stack of tin foil hats in the corner for those of you believing that Snopes is a plot by politically-motivated multi-billionaires to spread disinformation. Help yourself.