The Internet has brought us countless wonders, including online banking, the ability to communicate and share ideas with people living on the other side of the planet, and videos of cats playing the piano. You know, important stuff.
There has also been, unfortunately, a pretty nasty downside to the information age, namely, the “misinformation age.”
For every informative Wikipedia article on how to create your own bomb using a 3D printer, a bottle of soda and some Mentos, there is inevitably a false news article claiming Betty White is dead, Barack Obama is Muslim or that Ben Affleck can act. These articles are often referred to as “click bait.” Basically, they are bits of fake, sensational news, that only exist so that people will click them and thus bring the website advertising revenue.
It is a cheap ploy and does a lot to damage the credibility of actual media outlets such as The Robesonian, as once one news source lies to a reader, it doesn’t take much for that reader to start giving every news outlet the sideways glance.
One way click bait is able to survive is when admittedly gullible people choose to share the sensational news they have stumbled upon without taking the five seconds it would take to research the thing they are sharing. In order to launch a preemptive strike on this trend, I have decided to limit the things I allow my friends to post on my newsfeed to exactly five items.
1.) Anything work related. This includes press releases, story tips and praise. You may also send me negative feedback, but only about other writers. For example,
“Dear Mr. Johnson,
that Bob Shiles guy went too far …”
2.) Alcoholic beverages. While I’m not certain it is physically possible to email or post hard liquor, I have equipped my computer with a spigot just in case.
3.) Tests to help me determine “what kind of person I am.” Am I more of a Luke Skywalker or a Han Solo? A Gryffindor or a Ravenclaw? An orc or a white wizard? A rebel or a basket case? A person with too much free time or a narcissist? … Maybe a little of both.
4.) Photos of cute things. Whether it be a baby, a kitten or some combination of both, I am a sucker for that which is cute.
5.) Real news. That means news from a known, trusted, unbiased, credible source … So basically NPR, or The Robesonian (our staff would all have to finally agree on something before we could claim a bias).
If you absolutely must share news on my page that is not from a known source, then please first do the following. Go to Google, and type in a few words from the article which has you so excited into the search bar, followed by the name “Snopes,” or “Politifact.”
Just as the Internet has become an endless resource of places designed to lie to you, those lies have also created an entire industry built on debunking said lies. Now the only excuse for sharing misinformation on the Internet is laziness.
Not to worry though, I recently read a study that determined that 78 percent of Americans prefer doing their research to taking things at face value. Of course if you don’t believe me, then I might just be right.
James Johnson may be reached at 910-272-6144 or on Twitter @JJohnsonRobeson.