Social Media Lemmings
It’s sad to say this, but there are a growing number of lemmings… sorry… of people that can’t seem to stop spreading lies, falsehoods, and misconceptions on Facebook, Twitter, and the social media world as we know it. I know what you’re thinking, “Wow! Harsh.” But it’s the truth. In fact, chances are that you may just be one of them.
Each day, most of us take to social media to quickly check in, catch up and look at what’s hot in our feeds. Those feeds are called that for a reason. They feed us information and the fact is that we also get our local, domestic and international news from those feeds as well. This is important to understand.
As part of an ongoing examination of social media and news, the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation analyzed the characteristics of news consumers and the size of their population across 11 social networking sites. News plays a varying role across the social networking sites. Roughly half of both Facebook and Twitter users get news on those sites, earlier reports have shown. On YouTube, that is true of only one-fifth of its user base, and for LinkedIn, the number is even smaller. RECAP: Facebook is by far the largest social networking site among U.S. adults, and with half of its users getting news there, is also the largest among U.S. adults when it comes to getting news.
So, why is this important? Because I estimate that half of those people are spreading news articles around that are JUST PLAIN FALSE. More often than not, I click on a link to a story that ends up sending me over to a site that is more like the National Enquirer than a legit news agency. “A whaling crew was eaten alive by a family of killer whales! No. The drinking age is being raised to 25! Nope. George Zimmerman was arrested in Ferguson! Water-wasting Californians who do the Ice Bucket Challenge are getting fined! No, and would that it were so, but no,” states an article from The Boston Globe.
Although some of these are just satire, others are actually perceived to be real and spread like wildfire. Then, like lemmings, most people just go and spread it around because (I assume) they want the news to be real or like high school, they want to be the ones who spread the news so they seem important. Nope, you get neither.
So how do we get it to stop? How do we know what’s real? Well, some sites like Snopes and Hoax-Slayer are set up to help individuals determine what may be false or what may be actual truth. Heck, there are even agencies like Gawker and the Washington Post which have dedicated areas of their sites that help to dismember these Internet untruths. They aren’t perfect, but it’s a great place to start and research before spreading these satirical articles.
Be careful about spreading these types of articles without first researching it. Michael Andor Brodeur said it best, “The good stuff teaches you something about yourself; the bad stuff teaches the friends you share it with something about you.” Check the validity of the next “news” post you share before spreading it around. Trust me, it matters.
What do you think about this post? Share your comments with me.