It’s something we do tens, if not hundreds of times a day. We sit down on the computer, shut off our brains, and search for something mundane like “simple soup recipes’ or ‘gangster movie with Joe Pesci‘. It’s addictive, it’s fun and, more importantly, it’s really friggin’ easy.
It takes us literally several seconds to find the information we want via Google or Bing. If our first search doesn’t return any favorable results, we try again with slightly different wording. And then again, and again. Until finally (maybe) it returns something favorable.
Posting on the Internet, too, is a relatively painless ordeal. Often, a Facebook profile is good enough to post on many commenting systems spread throughout the Internet. Writing a blog is as easy as setting one up through one of the various blogging solutions.
But, as with all things on the Internet, it’s easy to find (and create) unreliable, inaccurate and even completely fake information.
In one case, an American man named Tom MacMaster created a gay Syrian female-blogger identity. In that blog, he wrote about how his fictional character, Amina, was facing repression in Demascus, Syria. Then, when the fictitious blogger had failed to update her Twitter and blog account for a few days, the international community feared that she had been kidnapped, particularly following a post by Amina’s also fictitious parents on her blog.
In response, many people reached out to the public for support in freeing Amina. Even credible news sources such as CNN posted that the fictitious Syrian blogger was missing, and asked for readers to respond to the event. Soon after this outreach, the Syrian blogger’s true identity was revealed, and MacMaster was outed.
Still, that didn’t prevent thousands upon thousands of international followers of the blog to react through Facebook. MacMaster later apologized, claiming that the blog was just a hoax that simply got out of hand, but he wasn’t able to do that before thousands of people rallied around to support the fictitious character that he had crafted.
Obviously, the Amina blog is an extreme example. Most credible news sources are able to sift through fake information in order to find the root of a story and determine its legitimacy.
But still, there remains the issue of accountability and trust when it comes to the Internet, a subject I’ve addressed before. After all, how do we determine the legitimacy of something when, sometimes, the sources we go to for confirming that legitimacy have failed to weed out false information as well?
Truthfully, that comes down to the convenience and ease of not only posting, but also searching on the Internet. When several sources appear to indicate that a particular story is true, most of us automatically assume that it probably is.
Literally, anybody can post a believable story on the internet. And that poses a problem because, the more believable a provocative story is, the more people are going to be willing to share it and support it.
Many of us are almost constantly connected to the web in some form or another. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. What is a bad thing is when we take that convenience and connectivity for granted, and automatically assume that others are just as reliable or trustworthy as ourselves. Often, they’re not.
Blogging and other forms of social media are intended to provoke a response from readers. But carefully crafted stories are meant to provoke responses, too. And not all stories are necessarily non-fiction.
So, the next time you find a story or a retweet and choose to take it as a credible source, maybe do some more in-depth research. Sure, it may sound inconvenient at first, but at the end of the day, it may prevent you from looking like a dupe.
Source: MSM DesignZ, Inc. is a Westchester based NY web design firm specializing in SEO, social media, web and graphic design and much more.