With misinformation exploding all over the Internet, perhaps we should start being as careful about posting memes containing information as we should have been in the first place.
Its Facebook page is mainly used by people asking for information about suspect claims they have come across. Unsurprisingly, a lot of these claims are in the form of pictures or links already shared on Facebook.
Following the Snopes Facebook page has very effectively served to make the point of how much false information there’s going around social media. The tide is endless.
Some of it is trivial. People just seem to make up cute stories. That’s something I noticed years back when reading the Snopes website, and something I wondered about. Why do people go around making up lies to share on the Internet?
The best explanation I got for that was the guess of another user on the Facebook page that they do it for the social benefits of sharing things that people will like. I can’t say I have much sympathy for that.
Then there’s the not so trivial stuff – mainly political lies. And it seems that there, too, absolutely anything goes. This should not come as a surprise, but, again, it really drives the point home following the Snopes page: a Facebook meme claiming to present some facts might be totally false, and there would be nothing surprising about this. It wouldn’t be some rare occurrence you should be unprepared for.
What kind of reality is this all creating? For one thing, people are going to believe many of these lies and form their views accordingly. As one example I noticed, it seems likely that a lot of Americans believe undocumented immigrants are major users of social security in their country, when in fact they are not entitled to it because they are there illegally (but do contribute tax money to your social security). A huge, blatant lie shaping people’s opinions.
For another thing, there being so many lies around creates a mistrust in there being such a thing as reliable sources, paradoxically leading people to feeling more free to believe in whatever they like.
In light of all this, I propose a new rule to follow on social media: Don’t share claims without a source. At all. Not even if the claim seems reasonable and likely, or it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s true.
If you really want to share it, maybe you can find the source and add it. If it doesn’t matter enough to do that, how does it matter enough to risk sharing false information?
Nobody can stop the tide alone, but things that need to be done together can’t be done without us individuals. We don’t like people sharing lies we don’t like, so let’s be truly better ourselves and show there’s an alternative.