How not to save the world/educate the internet

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls; I have an important announcement. Thanks to the careless overuse of the “share” button on Facebook, I will now be forced by my active imagination to lift up every public toilet seat before I use it.

True confession time: Even though I’ll admit it isn’t likely, I like to keep the bathroom shower curtain open so that ax murders can’t hide there. I also prefer not to dangle my feet or hands off the bed at night for obvious reasons, I am pretty certain you can’t get STD’s from public toilets but I use all the necessary precautions just the same, and I am ever mindful that my computer webcam could double as a spy scope for a computer hacker at any moment. Just to be clear, the last one is the most likely of the four. Now that you’re convinced I’m a paranoid cat lady, I’ll share my latest irrational fear. Some genius friend-of-a-friend shared on Facebook a link about this poisonous new spider that hides under public toilet seats so it can bite your butt and kill you. Fortunately, our mutual friend posted a link to a snopes.com article discrediting this “fact”. However, the damage to my delicate psyche was already done.

Enter: My Soapbox Moment, brought to you by anyone who shares something on facebook without fact-checking it first. But first, a little history. When I was fifteen, I got my first email account. This virtual connection to friends and family and the ability to send a letter at the touch of a button was truly amazing. Then, the forwards. At first, there weren’t really a whole lot of email forwards to circulate to educate and encourage and challenge your friends, but just like the flu, it started to catch on. Not only was I learning tons of new things via my email forwards, I was also daily challenged in my walk as a christian to show my boldness and share the love with others. You know, the forwards say something like, “Now, if you really love Jesus, you’ll forward this to ten of your friends right now! Still not sure? 98% of you are too ashamed of our Lord’s sacrifice to send this to your friends. What are you waiting for? Ever moment of hesitation is the same as adding another thorn to His crown of suffering!” So yes, of course I sent it out. Fortunately for me, my parents staged a “just say no to forwards” intervention after my youth pastor made a joke to them about being on my forwards list and after lengthy rehabilitation that consisted of daily reminders that hitting that forward button is not a sign of your devotion to God but simply a good way to be super annoying, I was done for good. Plus, with the unsettling revelation from my dad that not everything pretty much nothing you find in an email forward is true (mind.blown.) I was even more determined than ever not to involve myself with the propagation of unproven facts and needless information.

And then Facebook happened. Also, apparently a lot of you people never learned the whole just-because-it’s-on-the-internet-doesn’t-mean-it’s-true lesson. Because trust me, that lesson can be multiplied when it comes to anything you found first on facebook. For some reason, unquestionable verity is given to a “fact” once it is shared by a real person and not just some faceless source known as the internet. I think the general rule of thumb here is, if you found it on facebook, it probably isn’t true.

Here as an example, I have included two of the most popular “forwards” I have found on Facebook. The first one is of course the high school commencement speech given by Bill Gates. Sorry guys, not true. I’m not going to list the entire speech since I’m certain most of you either shared it or read it, but I’ll include everyone’s favorite part of the speech, “Be nice to nerds. Chances are, you’ll end up working for one.” Source? Not Bill Gates, but an excerpt from a book by Charles Sykes. Second most popular forward? This one gets a whole new batch of people every couple of months.

“I would like to keep my FB private except to those I am friends with. So if you all would do the following, I’d appreciate it. With the new FB timeline on its way this week for EVERYONE. . . please do both of us a favor: Hover over my name above. In a few seconds you’ll see a box that says “Subscribed”. Hover over that, then go to “Comments and Likes” and games, unclick them. That will stop my posts and yours to me from showing up on the side bar for everyone to see, but most importantly it limits hackers from invading our profiles. If you repost this I will do the same for you.”

So basically, good news and bad news. The good news is that your facebook privacy is not in the hands of your lazy friends, but completely accessible to you through your settings. The bad news is that you got taken to town by a facebook sharing scam.

Last but not least of the soapbox points? Resharing “facts” relating to issues/causes/politics without fact-checking them first. Everyone likes to whine about how much they can’t stand facebook during election season because of how aggressively their friends can push their voting preferences, but personally? The sheer amount of inaccuracies and “facts” shared are a much bigger problem. If you feel strongly about something, do your credibility a favor and fact-check before you share.

Oh, and if you suspect foul play while at an atm, entering your PIN backwards doesn’t call the police.

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