See what I did there? An attention grabbing headline designed to entice you to click the link and read my article! I even used a picture I found on google! It is in fact completely made up, with absolutely no evidence to substantiate the claim! Thousands of people do this every day on the internet, and when you really think about it, it is frightening how easy it is to get people to believe what they see online. What is even more frightening is that some people will not even read the article, they will take the headline at face value!
Yes, I realise the irony of writing an article on the dangers of social media, and then posting it on social media. But I find it disturbing that someone can post an unsubstantiated article, or an opinion with no evidence to back it up, and hundreds of thousands of people will share it without taking the time to find supporting evidence. It’s instant, they read the article and share it, then it is shared again and again, often spreading fear and panic.
Take Coronavirus for example. Articles are beginning to appear claiming that people are becoming seriously ill shortly after having certain vaccines. These articles do not actually provide any evidence to back up their claims, some even use fake videos and photographs that have been used in articles to discredit other medications, yet people instantly tag their friends and family, who then tag their friends and family, and before you know it, dangerous misinformation makes its way around the globe.
If I posted a completely fake story (which would be completely irresponsible by the way), about any subject that is currently making the headlines globally; a percentage of those who saw it would believe it, and they would share it with others who believed it. Before you know it, a completely made up story would become the truth for a large group of people, they would use it as ‘evidence’ to back up their beliefs, and it would have gone from fabrication to fact in a matter of days.
The problem with all this information at our fingertips is that anyone can create and post it online for all to see. You don’t need credibility, or expertise, you can simply make something up and post it. If you type “Covid is a hoax” into google you will find articles from people purporting to be experts claiming, no stating, that Covid is a hoax, and they have the ‘evidence’ to prove it. Type “Covid is real” into google and you will find an equal number of articles to support that belief.
The other problem is, and I have been guilty of it myself in the past, is that people will only look for information that backs up their argument. They will not take the time to look for information that contradicts what they believe.
There are people out there that dedicate their lives to a chosen profession. They spend many hours studying, researching, testing theories to prove, or even disprove them, and they are backed by other experts doing exactly the same work. These people know their work inside out, they are the people who discovered penicillin, and the countless other vaccines that have saved millions of lives globally, and yet we chose to dismiss their work, and believe a car salesman from Milton Keynes who has spent an hour on google during their lunch break, or someone with a grudge against the NHS or the Government who has thrown together a Facebook post with no evidence, as some kind of revenge against a supposed injustice they have suffered.
If you are going to research a subject make sure that you look closely at both sides of the argument. Look at the source of your evidence. Who created it? What is their background? Are they an expert in their field, or are they simply looking for likes and shares on social media.
It is a minefield full of misinformation and propaganda. This misinformation and propaganda can ultimately cost lives, that is how serious it is. Those sharing fake news do not care what the consequences are for others, they only care about their own profile.