Almost every day there will be a link shared on Facebook which purports to be a crucial piece of information. It will either be about personal safety, identity theft or risks to children. All of these are important subjects so how can you be sure which sources to trust?
The answer is simple. If in doubt, Google it. Always question these poorly written, poorly spelled streams of text which never quite manage a ring of truth. There are often phrases that have a very strong hint of American terminology about them which instantly put them in a certain context.
You also have to question where you are finding out this crucial piece of information for the first time. Facebook seems unlikely as the font of all knowledge. If it was true that you could enter your PIN number backwards at a cash machine and it would summon the police when you find yourself being forced to withdraw money at knifepoint, I think you’d have heard that somewhere else already. Search online, THIS IS NOT TRUE.
That is a genuine example that I’ve seen on Facebook at least twice so far this year. Well-meaning people share announcements like these almost without questioning them. It snowballs very quickly and you feel self-conscious about sticking a pin in the balloon because you don’t want to point out to friends that they’ve posted something that isn’t genuine.
However I think it’s important to shine a light on these pieces of misinformation. They undermine important messages about personal safety and identity theft. It is perfectly valid that people should be constantly reminded about being vigilant but to use poorly written, factually dubious fables, rumours and hearsay is potentially dangerous. Wrapping up a worthy message in unnecessary storytelling is reminiscent of thinking bible stories are needed to emphasise obvious rules for life.
Sharing important advice
I have even seen one of these things doing the rounds giving advice on finding yourself locked in the boot of a car. It actually said you should attempt to kick out one of the rear lights so that you could wave your hand through the hole to draw the attention of the driver behind. Now, I’m a film fan and I’ve seen some outrageous plots but does anyone think this is serious advice? If you’ve tried to replace the bulb in your car you’ll know how inaccessible everything is. The suggestion that you can just pop out the lens and wave is laughable.
If you read on Facebook that lone women drivers can ignore a police car trying to flag them down for fear of it being some psycho with a hook for a hand I would suggest that you ignore such advice, unless you want 3 points and a load of grief.
The most recent example looks as if it may have been written with a malicious agenda. A report that an app aimed at young children could be manipulated has been widely debunked but if your first instinct is to share possible risks you fall into the trap. So many of these reports have a whiff of suspicion about them that I always now attempt to verify them all before considering reposting.
I think this attempt to manipulate Facebook users also extends to people who set up fake pages purporting to be major retailers offering remarkable deals. “Like and share this page for your chance to win a 50 inch Samsung smart TV” said one. Check the spelling of this well known catalogue based retailer and you start to pull at the loose thread. Anyone who says they’ve got a pile of iPads which can’t be resold because the cellophane’s been opened must be roaring with laughter when anyone likes and shares the page. These are people who are cynically boosting the likes for a page which they then resell to someone who didn’t think they’d ever get that many through genuine activity.
It is important to question all these “too good to be true” scenarios. Question what you see and research it independently. Google is just a moment away.
If you think that Facebook is a valuable source of life changing information, think again.