Think before you hit the share button

Published 8:00 am Thursday, September 24, 2020

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I, along with many, are bone tired and weary of the year 2020. We are about ready to chunk this year into the trash from the killing rampage of a virus to fires, natural disasters, and turmoil. Excluding babies being born, weddings, and occasional eruptions of kindness, 2020 will become a disturbing chapter in future history books.

Plus, we add our politics, division, and ridiculous behavior to the 2020 dumpster on top of all that mess. Now, even the dumpster diving hound dogs will not go near that stench! Sometimes, I think they are smarter because we continue to add more rotten behavior to the garbage pile.

Guess by now, you are wondering where I am going with this, right? You know the old saying, “the straw that broke the camel’s back”? Well, Bubba Watson was the last straw for me.

Bubba is a University of Georgia graduate that is also a naturally gifted golfer. He is quirky, suffers a bit with mental health issues, which he admits and has openly discussed. Bubba, like the rest of us, carries around a few demons. However, whether you are a Bubba fan or not, he plus hundreds of others, do not need a false assignment of his name to advertise a personal ideology.

Social media has once again spread a diatribe regarding Black Lives Matter, the coronavirus, and protesters, professing it was a quote by none other than Bubba Watson. Since I follow my quirky golfer, I knew immediately Bubba was not the author. Once I fact-checked the statement, of course, Mr. Watson was not the writer. He even addressed it himself when he found it on social media.

Why do we add misinformation to our already filled trash bins? Are we so adamant in our beliefs that we are willing to falsely connect a famous person to our words to gain a larger audience? Are we so desperate to be heard that we will not take the time to fact-check a statement before spreading an untruth?

The term “fake news” has taken on a life of its own. It refers not only to untruths but used to dismiss reports that a person does not wish to agree with. So, is it true, we all believe only what we are willing to hear?

There has been much research regarding “fake news.” A deep dive into Twitter, for instance, revealed that false reports were re-tweeted more than the truthful news. Plus, they spread further.

According to a team from MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “It took the truth about six times as long as a falsehood to reach 1,500 people.”

Ordinary users of social media, ordinary people, friends, and relatives who scream about the idea of fake news are unknowingly passing altered or phony information. We are so excited to read something authored by someone famous that aligns with our personal beliefs we will hit the spread button before making sure it was not based on a lie.

Almost daily, my family receives emails that have been shared by many, espousing a particular philosophy or political position. By the time they reach us, the recipients’ list has grown to a “multitude” status. When we fact-check the stories, I would say more than 90% were not entirely accurate or were attributed to someone other than the rightful author.

According to another study, for those who say fact checker sites are biased or fake, six major fact-checking sites were studied, and all six agreed on which reports were true about 95% of the time.

Biased news is one thing, but fake news creates uncertainty, lies, and spreading of hatred. We must honor one another with the truth. It is our right to espouse our beliefs and opinions, but it is not right to use someone’s name to spread it further because of their fame. If that were the case, my byline might read, “Dolly Parton!” I can guarantee more folks would read and share my column!

If we have learned one thing this year, I hope it is the fact that Americans need one another to survive. There are rumors of civil war and a further weakening of our society. Did President Trump cause this, the biased reporting of news, the Democrats, the Black Lives Matter, or the White Supremacist movement, or could it be John Q. Citizen that is tearing the fabric of America apart by spreading one little lie at a time?

I know one thing for sure, defending the truth, spreading honesty and kindness is the only way we can possibly keep ourselves out of that nasty dumpster.