Sharing false information online creates an ignorant cycle

Oct. 19, 2015

Alexander Nedd
anedd@uccs.edu

We all have pet peeves, whether it is people not using their turn signal during rush hour traffic or simply chewing gum.

I wouldn’t fire warning shots in the general direction of an offender, but I can’t deny there are certain actions I have no patience for.

One of these is the sharing of false information.

When people post on Facebook or tweet links with blatantly wrong sources I find myself having to calm down.

Why?

If I were to participate in that nonsense I would be fired from my job immediately. The foundation of a good journalist is to cover the facts and report correct evidence.

While I understand that it’s my profession and others are not always held to the same standard, it doesn’t make the sharing of incorrect information any less wrong.

Google is at the tip of our fingertips; our phones are the onramp to a highway of free information from the Internet. All you have to say is “OK, Google,” or “Hi, Siri” and you’re there.

But this concept is lost on a vast majority of students, many of my own friends and family. It’s a habit that has no place in the 21st century, especially if you are a student.

I get it; people are creative and sometimes we get caught up in a hoax that can trick the most internet-savvy people. But those times are dwindling, and, more often than not, you look like a fool in front of your 237 followers on Twitter.

If you share a post that you believe benefits others, then you owe it to yourself and your prospective audience that the shared information has merit to it.

For example, you might have seen a number of friends share a status on Facebook declaring themselves free from a Facebook policy.

Not only is this stupid to think that a status with legal jargon would somehow bar you from the very company you’re posting on, but this status has repeatedly been deemed a hoax since 2012.

And yet, there it was, once again, on my timeline from a family member with the caption “It can’t hurt. COPY AND PASTE.”

That’s where you’re wrong (in more ways than one), because sharing fake information can hurt. When people share stuff without research, it doesn’t help solve an issue. It only adds to it.

That has to stop.

When we share the wrong information, we add to the ignorance that can then be viewed by others who simply don’t take the time to see if it’s true. It becomes a senseless, ignorant cycle. Don’t be part of the problem; instead become the solution.

As a journalist, it is my job to present to you the correct information and cite credible sources that you can use to form your own judgement.

While I cannot hold my audience to that same standard, I can work to make sure we follow some sort of guideline online that begins with sharing the correct information.

Check your facts. Look at your sources. Question its legitimacy. Be critical of your friends, family and media that post online for public consumption, and hold them accountable. Tell them when it’s wrong. Don’t just share it because it’s has a catchy caption.

We are all better than that.

And while I still have your attention, stop chewing your gum so loud.