Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fact checking is becoming my #1 pet peeve with the internet

Warning: This is a rant. Read at your own risk.

I wrote a short post on Facebook about fact checking just a few days ago and here we are with all the gun control memes that people are taking as fact. It doesn't matter what side you're on, before you share that meme that says what you feel emotionally, take 30 seconds to do some research. Yes, that's all the time it takes thanks to Google.

As an example, I saw one meme claiming that there was never a gun carrying citizen who stopped a mass shooting. I was curious, so I Googled. Right there I had a dozen articles with some actual facts. (The meme was wrong. See below **)

In the past I've shared a meme or two that I didn't check first, I'll admit it. But there's a big difference between a meme with a quote that cites the wrong author, and a meme stating a supposed fact on a major issue that you're trying to take a stand on. Still, check those quotes. (I know I shared a meme quote one time citing Mark Twain as having said it and found out later that it wasn't him.)

Not every meme is inaccurate. I've seen some that proved to be very accurate. It just seems like the easier it is to find the facts the less people are willing to actually double check anything.

My personal opinion is it's the fast paced life we all live. You're on your lunch break, this meme strikes a cord with you so you share it. I remember a friend of mine - one of the last to join Facebook - said after being on for a few weeks that all anybody did was like and share, there was no conversations. He's right. Again, that fast paced, click one button and move on mentality.

I can be just as guilty. One of the things I love is the Like button, so I don't have to type. Click and move on.

I think the reason why I see this as a big deal is not simply the sharing of inaccurate memes, it's the bigger issue. We as a society have started taking everything at face value. One news blurb from some website and it's taken as fact. Look at all the satirical websites whose articles people believe are true. Why? Because they don't bother to check the source, or google the site that the article was on. (Usually the first thing that pops up is "fake news.") Even the news - you know with supposed journalists - have been guilty of reporting inaccurate stuff because it wasn't researched. It's on the internet. Yep, must be fact.

Where does it lead? How far does it go, how bad does it get before society says enough is enough. Then the question is, how do we fix it?

Looking back I guess we've always been this way to some degree. Gossip taken as gospel. Tabloids selling better than the New York Times. (I don't honestly know if that's true but sometimes it feels like it.) See, if you didn't fact check at least tell everyone you don't know if it's true. Now I want to go Google it, but it's 2:45 in the morning and I'd like to be done soon.

As I stated at the top this is a rant. My thoughts on a subject that can really annoy me. Ultimately it's a little post that will be lost among the billion of other posts. But maybe in my small corner of the world it can start a conversation. Who knows.

**For those curious, in the past 3 decades there have been about 15 or so incidents where the killing stopped because a citizen with a gun stepped in. This comes from about 5 different articles that I opened and quickly read through, plus the little blurbs under the titles of all the others on the first search page. All articles ranged in date posted from 2012 to this past May.

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