So, I was scrolling through Facebook the other day. Again. I don’t know why I continue to do this to myself. Between the misspelled memes and “games” of “fill in your favorite_____ so I can guess your password safety questions”, I can hardly read my feed without having some sort of out of body experience.
This might be because I’m a former English teacher and poor grammar or spelling is like salt to a wound; or, it could be because it causes major anxiety.
Mostly, though, I’ve come to understand that it’s due to the massive over-sharing of information that is either blatantly false or skewed or created by someone who doesn’t know the first thing about what they’ve written.
It used to be that Facebook was just a place where “keyboard warriors” went to either cause drama or jump right into the middle of it while they crouched over their phones in their jammies. Now, with a worldwide pandemic in full force, it’s become a place where uniformed know-it-alls spread pure trash.
Do I seem harsh? Bitter, even? You betcha!
Let’s take exhibit number 1:
Some no doubt well-intentioned person posted something to the effect of, “Hey everybody! If you have a cloth mask, put it in a Ziploc bag and microwave it. This will disinfect your mask so you can use it again!”
I saw this same post shared on my timeline by multiple people that very day.
Here’s what I saw on my timeline the very next day:
“Do NOT microwave your cloth masks! I almost set my kitchen on fire!”
This gem included a picture of a now charred cloth mask. I saw a second picture and post of the same ilk later that evening. This time, the pic was of a charred cloth mask and a charred paper towel. I guess they thought the Ziploc baggie was the problem and opted for paper.
Now for exhibit #2:
An “article” from an unnamed individual who chose to be identified through his Twitter handle. The information included seemed scientific in nature, using big words and referencing data on COVID-19. The author did slip in a disclaimer stating he wasn’t a doctor or scientist, yet here he was spouting theories about the coronavirus and how to treat it.
I saw this article shared multiple times on my feed, as well. There are two major problems with this sharing.
- Sharing on FB is very similar to the sharing of viruses. One person shares it on his/her page. People on his/her friends list see it, read it and share it to their pages. Those friends share it and so on. Before long, it’s been shared to multiple communities and states.
- The information in that article was COMPLETELY FALSE and unfounded.
How do I know this? Because I read it and I sent it on to an actual physician who is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and receives real-time, medically and scientifically proven information. What I learned by vetting the facts was that the article referred to COVID-19 as a DNA virus. It’s an RNA virus. It also claimed that the virus was a blood virus. COVID-19 is a coronavirus, a family of viruses that specifically attacks the lungs and respiratory system.
These are facts, folks. All else is speculation at best, myths at worst.
I don’t know why anyone would want to share misinformation or opinions and spread them under the pretense of facts. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the ease by which we can all create and share content on the internet.
Do not fear, though, because just like social distancing, we have the power to stop the spread of falsities and trash.
- Fact check! Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t meant it’s true. This is Internet 101. If you read something that you find compelling or interesting, especially if it involves the current state of affairs with a worldwide pandemic and unprecedented methods of isolation (which have caused unprecedented panic), please for the love of all that is sacred, research it before you share it.
- Talk amongst ya’selves! I’m summoning my inner Linda Richman from Saturday Night Live when I say this: If you find it interesting or worthy of consideration, great! Does that mean that you must immediately share it? No! It’s like a rumor. When you hear a rumor, are you sure it’s true? Rarely. Do you automatically share it, or do you keep it to yourself until you can find out if it’s true? The old saying goes, “If it’s not documented, it’s just a rumor”.
- Don’t share! If we can stop the spread of a virus by staying home, surely, we can stop the spread of false and misleading information by simply not sharing it.
I’m all for the first amendment and the sharing of quality information to help others. This blog post is one example of that. I’m not discouraging this. What I am suggesting is that if it’s not helpful and true, don’t share it. Don’t contribute to rumors, false hope and panic.
If you are consuming information, don’t assume what you’re reading is true. Do some research, ask a professional with credentials, communicate with experts.
We can all stop the spread if we do our parts.
I would love to hear your experience in the over-sharing of bad info. Have you seen it? Is it humorous? Post it below!