On the 11th of July 2012 this popular meme illustrating the day Marty McFly [from the classic movie, ‘Back to the Future’] arrived in the future started flying its way around the internet. You know, cos look out for Marty McFly or something.
The only problem being, that it was not true. Back to the Future was released in 1985 and in the movie Marty Mcfly travels 30 years into the future [making it 2015, October 21, my sister’s birthday, to be exact] and this picture [and many others like it] was simply displaying the benefits of an adequate knowledge of Photoshop.
“But it’s on the internet” is surprisingly not a synonym for “But it’s true”.
R.I.P. Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman, Avril Lavigne and more…
In September 2010, thousands of people were shocked with the news that Morgan Freeman had passed away.
“RT @CNN: Breaking News: actor Morgan Freeman has passed away in his Burbank home,”
None, more so than Morgan Freeman, who upon hearing the news quickly assured people that he was not.
Celebrity death hoaxes have become quite common in the age of Facebook and Twitter, because people like you [yes?] see something newsworthy and dramatic and want to be the first to get the news out to their friends. Usually without any kind of research whatsoever. This article refers to 16 different celebrities who were assumed dead [many by the same hoaxes – fell off cliff while filming in New Zealand, snowboarding to name two].
One of them was completely accidental as when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died, the hashtag #nowthatcherisdead became a worldwide trend, fooling many in to believing that singer Cher was dead as the tag could be read both ways – Now Thatcher Is Dead – Now That Cher Is Dead. Thousands of people in the States , including some celebrities, jumped into mourning and retweeting mode for Cher, assuming she had passed on.
IT’S AS EASY AS ONE, TWO, SNOPES
Have you, or someone you know, posted this statement, to protect your information on Facebook?
“As of September 28th , 2015 at 10:50p.m. Eastern standard time, I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates.”
Another hoax. Firstly, what do you have that you think is so valuable anyways that anyone would want to take it? And secondly, if you saw this and forwarded it without checking up on its validity, then maybe other people deserve your stuff. In an unrelated note, Jesus will not be sad if you don’t share that other cheesy religious guilt-enducing post.
But more seriously, when there is something that seems too good to be true, or maybe too bad to be true, or more importantly too dangerous to be shared without checking if it’s true to be true, then a quick and quite reliable and responsible action to do is to check it out first.
Any time i see something and want to share it but want to first check on its validity i usually just type the heading or key phrase and the word ‘hoax’ or ‘scam’ into the Google and it usually sorts it out straight away. Another good way when it’s a story you’re not sure of [like was today REALLY the day Marty McFly set off for?] is to go to Snopes.com [and various other sites like it] that help weed out scams and mistruths as well as other urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.
WE NEED TO BECOME RESPONSIBLE INFORMATION SHARERS
There are a number of reasons why we need to get better at this stuff. At its best it can be annoying or misleading, but at its worst it can be hurtful and potentially dangerous.
Imagine you were a relative of a celebrity and learnt about their ‘death’ on social media and it took you more than 24 hours to track them down and figure out that the story was a hoax. Imagine you are the mother or the husband. It is completely irresponsible to be someone who shares misinformation because it feels like a breaking news moment and you want to be first on it. Doing a quick check will not always save you the embarrassment and help stop rumours in their tracks, but it will at least give you a greater chance of getting it right.
A couple of weeks ago in the informal residence of Masiphumelele, a rape and a murder of a young boy took place. A local mob was formed looking to execute ‘justice’ they felt the authorities weren’t providing and a man who was thought to be guilty of the offence was killed. This is wrong and dangerous in itself, except that the news that followed a few hours later was that they got hold of the wrong person. THIS is the kind of thing that indiscriminate Facebook and Twitter sharing can be a part of creating – witch hunts, violence, shaming and loss of reputation – which as mob justice is wrong in and of itself, but how much more so when the wrong person is targeted.
SWIMMING LESSONS FOR ALL RACES
# This whole post came directly out of an incident that hit social media in the last day or so involving an alleged racist incident with a woman [with a black-sounding surname] who tried to get her children into a class for swimming lessons but was told it was full – when she changed her name to a white sounding name, she was told there was room for her children.
What was interesting with this event [and i will be writing more on this, especially as i get to know and hear more of the full story] was that i quickly found out that i knew someone on both sides and so was given a different perspective than most people saw [some of which i am unable to comment on because it is personal information that was shared in confidence] and with the response to both the alleged victim and the perpetrator being slander/threats of violence and more, realised that maybe this is one incident that is not as clear cut as it seems. The response i got when i messaged Virgin:
Yes, we have been in touch with both Aimee and Swim4Life and are conducting a full investigation to gather all the facts, and will take the appropriate action. Unfortunately as with many such incidents, there is an intense trial by social media happening, targeting Aimee, Swim4Life and Virgin Active, and I urge you and those you engage with to consider the humans on all sides, and respect their dignity, while we look into and help resolve the matter. Thanks for getting in touch.
It’s a very tricky situation and unfortunately a lot of people are commenting without all the facts on hand. We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind, and we want to be absolutely sure of the full story as it is a) the dignity of Aimee and the swim school, as well as the livelihood of a family business on the line. We cannot make rash judgements until all the facts are in. Thanks for understanding, Brett.
From a message to a guy called Andrew who wrote to them: Virgin Active does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We have been in contact with both parties since we were alerted to this on Saturday 10 October, are conducting a full investigation and will take appropriate action.
Also my friend Lisa posted on Facebook about her experience with the school:
Sorry, I have no idea of the context of this, but it sounds totally weird. My kids both swim with this squad; I’m at their pool roughly three times a week, (often at different times if they have catch-up sessions for missed lessons) and frequently see swimming students of all races, and all ages (from babies to adults) in their classes, both one on one lessons and group sessions. The teachers are warm, professional and fantastic – to all their students. The admin of the swim school is, however, scatty at best; they are managing hundreds of swimmers and time slots. They’re better at teaching swimming than at admin. I can’t comment on the original post as I’m not connected to her on FB, but I’d urge her to send the complainant directly to the company to question the situation and call them on it. Cock-ups and misunderstandings are better resolved directly than via social media.
So while it looks [from the emails that were shared with us, which may not have been all the ones there were] like a racist incident which must be fully investigated and dealt with accordingly, there is also some evidence to suggest that maybe it’s not the school that is racist and maybe there is a story different to the one that we were fed. And we have to give is due diligence.
# tbV and i have different ideas when it comes to the idea of public shaming and both for very good reason i think and maybe i will see if i can get her to share some of her thoughts and i will do the same sometime soon.
Have you ever shared something on Social Media that you later found out was a hoax or mistake? Has it taught you in any way to be more vigilant before clicking like, favourite, retweet or send?
[For my related post on a few things to think through as we comment, click here]