If you go on Facebook on any given day, you may see one posted by a Facebook friend. It’s usually a picture with text, often capitalized and superimposed over the photo. It might tell a tragic or moving story, or quote statistics about the handgun use, the abuse of animals, or another topic in the national conversation. It then asks you to repost, or like the post, or take some other action.
How many of the stories are real? How many of the statistics are accurate?
I’ve wondered about it and thought about it again when I read about Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s tweeting activities in the days after the Boston bombing. Tsarnaev tweeted about a post of a picture of a man huddled over a prone woman that said the man was going to propose to the woman and instead found her dead. Tsarnaev tweeted “fake story,” and the news article reports that the claim wasn’t true.
Why would anyone feel the need to heighten the horrific nature of the Boston bombing by concocting a fake story about the people injured in the blast? Why would anyone make up phony statistics about some political issue? How many people are misled by such postings, and how much of the national conversation has been misdirected as a result of the false information?
I hope there aren’t many people who accept these kinds of Facebook posts at face value, without applying some skepticism and fact-checking. My grandmother used to say “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” That’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to Facebook information.