OUR VIEW: Figuring out what’s true, what isn’t on social media

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Thirty years ago, even 20 years ago, if police were called somewhere in town, there were only a few ways to find out.

If it was newsworthy enough, the local paper would write on it. Or, a nosy neighbor might call around and let everyone know what had happened. Word of mouth and gossip, in many ways, were the original social media.

But at least back then, it took a few days for reactions to pour in.  

A casual conversation at the grocery store was like playing the game of “telephone,” where information might change as the story was told from person to person. Sometimes, the storyteller might like to add an extra detail or stretch the truth a little bit for dramatic effect. You know how it works. 

But now all that gossip is as simple as logging on to your favorite social media account.

You can quickly find out just about anything you want on a person in five minutes, thanks to the internet. 

When something negative happens, people swarm. Many have an opinion, and they aren’t afraid to share it. That’s the purpose of social media, that instant reaction.

But social media is also a place where false information can be spread very easily.

You often will see a post highlighting a too-good-to-be-true prize from a large company, like a cruise line, being shared hundreds of thousands of times, just because none of those sharers took two seconds to actually click the page to see that it’s fake.

Don’t be gullible.

It’s also important to consider where you are getting your news from.

Facebook news pages, often faceless, share information with zero burden of proof and with no reason not to sensationalize it. The shares, “likes” and reactions add to their follower count, and the next time they share something more people will see it.

Some of these pages can be truthful. We’re not putting all of them in one basket.

But we recommend doing your research and considering if you’re getting both sides of the story.