Stopping the Spread of Phoney Info on Social Media

Ok, it has to be said: No, Brad Pitt did not write that incredibly romantic story about Angelina. No, microwaving water does not make it harmful to plants. And no, a monster-sized squid did not wash up on a beach in California. At this point, (hopefully) most of us know these things are untrue, yet such stories and pictures continue to run rampant on social media, shared under the guise of fact and spread like a sneaky disease. With our social media presence so intertwined in our everyday young professional (YP) selves, this perpetuation of bogus material has the potential to cause not only personal embarrassment, but even professional harm. So to avoid that inevitable egg on the face and to stop the spread of nonsense, here are four notable steps to consider before pressing share:     

1. Use common sense (duh): First and foremost, detangling what is real from what isn’t when it comes to online info requires a good dose of common sense. Most of the time it’s the stories that concern us, move us or shock us that lead us to innocently re-tweet or share without much thought. We’re appalled or excited, and such emotional reactions can cloud our judgment; we want to be the first to tell the world! But before you eagerly share the hottest news of the day, stop, check in with that common sense, and ask yourself if it may just be too juicy to be true. 

2. Google it: Like with anything, if you are unsure, Google it. If you read some beautiful story on Twitter or see some mind-blowing pic on Facebook, but just can’t be sure that it’s for real, check it out outside of social media. Try to find at least three other distinct sources carrying the story, and then cross-reference via the usual go-to news and info sources you already trust. It only takes a few extra clicks and could really help you save face.

3. Consider the source: Speaking of sources, this step is a big one! These days it’s easy to find sites to validate just about any BS. We all have those social media pals who post what appear to be breaking news stories about some magical medical finding or crazy government conspiracy. When you take a quick look at that URL, though, it’s obvious the source cannot be trusted. For those sites that can be more difficult to decipher, however, there are some tips to help you determine legitimacy: First off, if it’s monumental, earth-shattering news, but from a site you’ve never, ever, ever heard of, trust your gut because it’s likely crap. Also, if there are numerous spelling and grammar mistakes – yeah it’s likely crap. If the headline is obscure and blatantly requesting you to “like” something in order to view the video, pic, or story, it’s for sure crap. And, if the story comes from one of those British tabloids that can easily appear like a real news source, i.e. The Daily Mail or The Sun, yeah, you be careful with those. And finally, don’t get caught being one those people spreading satire as fact (so embarrassing!). It’s a joke! The Onion is not for real! 

4. is your friend:  Thank goodness that if we are ever still unsure about a story, we can always go to The brilliant truth seekers over at Snopes are constantly on the case, cracking down on all the latest claims of craziness. With one quick keyword search you can find out not only if something is true or false, but also where it came from and sometimes even what the actual story is. Make your friend and you will be the savvy YP that puts a stop to the annoying and toxic cycle of online boloney.  

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)


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