Opinion: Not Everything Heard Should Be Repeated | Avi Gutfreund

Nobody reading this needs to be told that the majority of what you see on social media is fake or mischaracterized. We all know that when we see or hear something, whether it be on Instagram or Whatsapp, or even text group messages, to take it with a heaping tablespoon of salt. Yet, as it became quite apparent last week, there are times when misinformation being spread around is taken completely seriously, causing unnecessary havoc.

While it’s easy to blame social media as being at fault, the truth is that social media, while having it’s own significant problems, was just a tool to spread fear. In reality, the issue was that misinformation was being shared by people. This is not to blame everybody who discusses information that is spreading like wildfire – what are you expected to do, stick your head in the sand and ignore it? Rather, my point is that when these things occur, as they often do, to take a deep breath and find out the truth.

When rumors swirl, the rumor is usually either completely untrue, or, as is more common, riddled with inaccuracies and half-truths. In such cases, it is important to separate the chaff from the kernel, to delve into the matter a little more instead of relying on a game of broken telephone to make your decisions.

Getting back to the social media aspect, while it is only a tool, a way of spreading the misinformation, it causes far more serious harm than when you may hear something from a friend or relative. When a rumor is heard from a someone close to you, questions are asked, and it usually becomes clear that there are either gaping holes in the validity of the claim being made, or that the facts are vague, and so you won’t take the matter as seriously. But when a voice note claiming X is sent to a WhatsApp group, that note then gets forward to other groups, and from there to yet more groups, and so on and so forth. Few people ever get to question the creator of the voice notes claim – barely anyone knows where it originated from in the first place! Instead, the [mis]information gets shared at a rapid clip, scaring anyone and everyone that hears it.

When you get a message claiming something terrible is happening, assume there’s something not right in the text, voice note, or post. Be a little skeptical, channel your cynical side – in these cases, it’ll usually be to your benefit. Most importantly, don’t go sharing that same information verbatim without clarifying that you can’t attest to the accuracy of that information. It would save a lot of people a whole lot of trouble.

There is a famous saying that goes ‘Not everything thought should be repeated, not everything repeated should be written, not everything written should be published’. I’d like to add ‘not everything published should be believed’. We should start living by that creed.

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  1. The problem is that there was no way to get any authentic verified information….. Therefore all people have are rumors to hold on to… And it’s probably best to keep this whole thread vague.. which was the problem to begin with!

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