This weeks’ column is a continuation from last week’s rant, about the ‘bad things happen in the world – 97% of my friends wont repost this – only the 3% who do care about the bad thing!’ Facebook statuses which I hate so much.
Whilst on a roll having eviscerated the motives of smug slactivist sharers, I also had a few remaining questions regarding “FACTS” I am sometimes exhorted to share “if I care”.
Now, facts and social media /the online world in general, have a relatively indirect relationship. You could say, ‘it’s complicated’. Remember that great meme that circulated a year or so back – I cannot find an original attribution for it and there are many versions, but the basic punchline was ‘I cannot come to bed, someone is WRONG on the internet!’ It is so easy to become a keyboard warrior and get hooked by this stuff, you really do have to give it up sometimes, and let the internet and some of its weirder inhabitants be wrong. Sleep matters. You don’t know these people and they don’t matter.
But what about those you do know? I am talking here though about the stuff that gets shared on Facebook by people who in most cases genuinely believe they are helping others by passing on information.
An awful lot of it is unchecked unsubstantiated rubbish anyway, sometimes designed to serve a specific political agenda – that gets shared and re-shared over and over again without anyone stopping to evaluate whether it has any shred of factual authenticity. Do I agree that the word Christmas should be banned from local authority communications in the name of political correctness, or that wounded veterans should sleep in the streets whilst immigrants get handed the keys to custom-built mansions? Hell no, so lets all copy-paste, do not pass Google, do not collect any proof whatsoever…
Other stuff may have had some validity, once, somewhere… but somehow in internet land, as people are finally starting to realise, it never really dies away. Missing kids or pets, warnings from police about paedophiles on the run, ‘latest warnings’ about stings and scams – the problem is the laziness again, that people not only don’t check, they copy and paste without contextualising it in any way.
So you see a Facebook status you have read before, that starts ‘I was told this by a Constable from West Midlands Police’ and you want to shake your friend who posted it and say ‘NO YOU WEREN’T, I put it to you dear Facebook Sharer. You have instead copied and pasted it from someone else who copied and pasted it over and over a million times, and maybe somebody somewhere once maybe did actually get it from a cop but it may no longer be relevant or valid or even factually true’.
Again, whose agenda is served by making people, women in particular, feel scared to go out, scared to drive alone? ‘I just shared it to raise awareness, everyone can learn from this, how can it hurt?’ Well if you feel like that take the advice points of the information and write about why you think its relevant, or if you want to copy and paste it preface it with something like: ‘This has been circulating on Facebook, no idea where it’s come from or if it’s true but on the face of it I think it sounds like quite sensible advice to think about…’ – doesn’t take a long longer to do that does it, if you really care about your friends being safe?
In other cases, pasting bad advice can literally be dangerous, for example one that has been circulating via email for at least a decade and more recently on Facebook, suggesting that you can somehow perform CPR on yourself by coughing vigorously if you think you are having a heart attack. It must be true, according to The Internet, because ‘a cardiologist said’. However this has been comprehensively debunked as not only utterly ineffective advice, the real danger is that the vital seconds somebody spends trying to remember how they were supposed to do this special coughing or telling someone how to do it in an emergency, could have been spent calling them an ambulance or performing actual first aid that could save their lives.
Another really stupid and dangerous one did the rounds a year or so back, advising that stroke victims can be helped by having their fingers and earlobes pricked… A response that could not only delay actual 21st century medical attention (which has moved on a bit from bloodletting) when every second counts, but may possibly add tentanus or hepatitis to the victim’s problems as well. Nice one, The Internet.
So anyway this rant is even tiring me, and things will always be Wrong On The Internet, I cannot fix this. If you are my Facebook friend and you post some unchecked rubbish like this I will call you on it publicly and probably link to some proof that it’s nonsense, which will have taken me less than 10 seconds to establish (A GOOD use for copy and paste – copy first sentence or two of the status then pasted into Google!) I am not doing it to show you up, but to show everyone reading on your status that they should not propagate it further.
Sorry again for the ‘Mrs Angry’ stuff this week, I promise to bring you something Christmassy in next week’s column!
Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, Friday 13th December 2013 ©Maya Middlemiss, Casslar Consulting SL