It amazes me, that in our world of Google and Bing that people still forward dire warnings of horrific dangers. I mean, it only takes a couple seconds to type the heading into Google and get a bazzilion web sites telling me that there is no truth to the story.
Facebook seems to be the new forum for delivering these messages. It is easy to ‘share’ a post to your own time line and it get’s proliferated throughout all your friend’s time lines. Most recently, I saw one warning that the police are warning drivers not to flash their head lights to another car that doesn’t have their headlights on. The result will be that you will instigate a gang initiation ritual that will result in your getting killed.
Dire warnings, indeed!
Maybe I’ve just been ‘on-line’ so long that I’ve seen it all before. Maybe with the advent of the iPad and the smart phone, people who never had a computer before suddenly have access to this information. And, they don’t know the power of Google and the existence of sites such as snoopes.com.
So, what’s my point with all this? I mean, it’s just an email, it doesn’t hurt anybody or cost anything?
I would argue that there is a real cost to perpetuating such stories. The first is that it costs the person who forwards it or shares it — it makes them look gullible and nobody wants to look like a gullible fool, do they? It also costs my time to look at this email and delete it. It clogs up my in-box and my time-line.
I would also argue that there is potential for real injury here. I believe that if we keep bombarding people with horrible stories, people will become increasingly paranoid. It continues to erode our faith in humanity — we see enough of this on our local news, we don’t need it in our in-box.
The story about the headlights is particularly scary for me. Let’s just imagine that I took this message as true and decided that I was not going to flash my headlights anybody from now on. So, I’m on my way home and I notice a guy who didn’t have his headlights on, but I don’t flash him. He drives around the corner where there are no street lights and ends up running over a couple out for an early evening walk.
You know, there are so many of these stories out there, I could write a series on them and why I think they are insidious… It would be a sort of series… I think that from now on, each time I see one of these, I’m going to write a blog post here about it and why it’s not only wrong, but dangerous to forward it!