Mark Twain, Winston Churchill and other old and dead white guys have been attributed to saying the quote: “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Even though I’m still trying to find out who really said it (even Google is confused), this statement is mad accurate. Especially in the age of social media when we all have easy access to amplification and fewer gatekeepers of the news.
Everyday, I see people posting links of stories that are either inaccurate, out of date or just plain fake to Facebook and Twitter. A lot of times, the posters are also expressing some dramatic emotion around the (literally) bad news.
Jeebs be the fence of discernment around our proverbial sense houses because we are outchea failing at media literacy. The interwebs has ruined the ability for people to know what’s real, what’s fake and when to question what they read. So I am here to give tips for people to do before spreading news they see online.
- Does this seem believable on a most basic level?
- Is the website reputable?
- Is this news reported elsewhere?
If any of the answers is no, then do some due diligence to find out.
Click the post and read beyond the headline.
Many people see the title of a post and they gather their outrage or disdain or happiness from it. From JUST the headline. They repost with haste to cheer or jeer and they didn’t even read the content of it. They just figured they know what it entails. This is how many people got caught up with a post going around right now with the headline “ABC Has Announced That Next Season Will Be The Last For Scandal.” I saw it posted by at least 3 people who were upset about it. I clicked the article and saw that it was a joke to see how many people would fall for it. So those folks who posted it and were upset didn’t even click through to stop the chain of foolishment. FAIL.
Look at the date.
This past week, I saw people all in their feelings about the news that Rue McClanahan died. “OMG NOT BLANCHE” was all in my newsfeeds along with the story as fans of “Golden Girls” and her other work mourned her. But here’s the thing: Rue died 4 years ago. Had they just looked at the date on the article, they’d see it was from 2010.
We’re the most skimming folks ever. We just hit “share” sometimes without even clicking through to read the article. Admit it. We deduce that we learn all we need from the featured image and the headline. All you gotta do is click through and pay attention to what’s in front of you.
I was on the phone with a friend as I was scrolling through my newsfeeds and I admit I gasped when I saw “Rue McClanahan dies at the age of 76.” Then I was like “wayment. I knew this. I wrote a post on this when it happened.” LAWD! People were about to have me re-mourning her. It’s contagious.
If you read something that seems outrageous, before you pass it on to others, pause and Google it. Can you find a second source? If not, wait. Don’t try to play FIRST on news and post it just so people can comment “FAKE.” Be sure. No, Jaden Smith will not be playing Trayvon Martin in a biopic because that janky website said it. If you google it, and the news isn’t corroborated anywhere else, you might wanna wait til you find other receipts.
It’s easy. There’s even a site called “Let me Google that for you.” Because: fed up.
Look it up on Snopes.
There are so many urban legends that have been disproven but they still get life from people sharing posts that are completely untrue. Snopes is a website that does the research work for you and tells you if a rumor is true, partly true or false. It also lets you know if something has been proved to be neither of those (unknow). Nope, a tooth left in a glass of coke will not dissolve overnight and yes, it’s true that the woman that Jack Nicholson thought was his sister was actually his mother.
Although, sometimes Snopes gets it wrong too. They aren’t 100% accurate so it helps to do some more research on your own..
Know your satirical websites.
There are many websites that like to say they’re satirical. The Onion is the leading one and they do satire WELL. Humor is subjective, of course, but there’s some piss poor satire out there that jumps over the line to lying and trying to fool people. To me, satire is SMART lambasting of the world through sarcasm and ridicule, not just the ability to lie about news. SMART is the keyword.
Websites like CreamBMP, The Daily Currant, The News Nerd and others like them aren’t as much satire as they’re clickbait preying on people’s need for outrage. They’re basically what the Enquirer is, except digital and a little bit more smug about their wackness. Whoring for pageviews is their business model. I kind of hate them with the intensity of 1,000 African suns at high noon.
There is also a website called RealorSatire.com. Use that if you’re confused about whether a site is shitty satire or purporting to be real.
Please stop linking to stories on these sites as if they’re factual. Every day, someone on my Facebook friends list posts a story from one of these places, believing that what they read is true. And each time that happens, an angel dropkicks a trashcan and facepalms on Heaven’s gate. Wikipedia has a list of satirical sites. It’s by no means comprehensive but next time you’re not quite sure, check there first.
By taking these extra steps, you won’t be spreading terrible fake news. Real news is bad enough and there’s more than enough things to be mad at about REAL life so we don’t need lies to piss us off.
Also, I think it’s important that we become more savvy about the news we share and vouch for. Misleading information can be dangerous at times, and since we have ALL become the gatekeepers, we should make it a point not to let trash enter the city gates so often.
Let us never forget that just because it is on the internet does not mean it’s true!
Check out the pinnable graphic below. Pass it on!