When we grow up, our parents constantly warn us not to run with scissors, not talk to strangers, and not to pick that thing off the floor and eat it. Well, parents of today please take note as there is a new warning: do not believe everything you hear on social media.
A Lesson from 'The Guardian'
A few weeks ago 25-year-old @PrayForPatrick created a fake graphic masquerading as a poll from The Guardian. The graphic stated that 75% of Glastonbury revellers were Conservative voters.
The graphic spread like wildfire, with people reposting the new found fact (with no further mention of Patrick). Even Guardian columnists were sucked in. The original trickster later explained his actions by tweeting, "before you ask, yes, I was indeed trying to make a point about the willingness of people to accept the results of small sample opinion polls". It seems his point was proved, along with proving that people are happy to believe something if it fits with their preconceptions.
If You Say 'Gullible' Slowly it Sounds Like 'Oranges'
Social media is not a safe haven of opinion. Each tweet must be weighed and judged to be true or not in the same way you would if a co-worker just shared a piece of gossip.
One of the most common places to find 'truth' shared is accounts such as @HistFootball and @HistoryPicz. These mock accounts are tricky to identify as they don't parade themselves as parody accounts, with @HistFootball's bio stating that they tweet "pictures and facts from football's glorious history". Often people are retweeting and sharing the tweets from these accounts believing the 'facts' to be true.
Think First, Retweet Later
Perhaps social media has dumbed-down our critical minds: if it has a logo, a decent design, a plausible premise and no typos then it must be legit. Or perhaps, as with The Guardian graphic above, if everyone else is sharing it, then it must be true?
So next time you see something on social media do a bit of research first before sharing it.
You've been warned.