Fake News Means Nothing Is Sacred

Especially not life, nor our mental health.

Image via Pexels

My Facebook feed is increasingly stressing me out, and I don’t think I’m alone in the sentiment. Despite the recent emotionally moving commercials from the social media giant, my feed is still ninety-five percent ads or commercialized posts with only five percent of my actual friends and family displayed.

Messenger may be convenient, but Facebook is now officially the worst way to keep in touch. Mostly because it can create a false sense of connection. But also, fake news.

Some days, just scrolling through my newsfeed makes me feel creepy crawly from all of the misinformation being liked and shared.

Then I woke up to this gem of a post suggesting that Anthony Bourdain was murdered in a Clinton-run conspiracy. Hey guys, I’m an open minded person who can definitely get sucked into a good conspiracy story. I’m distrustful of Big Pharma and even the Clintons. So I clicked the link to read the “article.”

(FYI--our collective definition of the word article has seriously gone downhill.)

Right away, I’ve got concerns. Namely that the sources they’re using to support their claims don’t even support those claims at all. But who’s actually going to check out all of those backlinks, right? Um... *raises hand* me.

Now I’m not any expert in “how to spot fake news.” I’m not a genius. I do, however, consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. So I didn’t even need to head over to Snopes to confirm my suspicions that this Neon Nettle story was fake... I only had to read the story.

And the Facebook post where this dribble caught my eye? A supposedly organic minded health page called Madeline Blom of Mommas Organics. I couldn’t help but point out a couple of the problems with the story when Ms. Madeline basically lamented that mommas should know better than to trust Snopes.

I admit, I was riled up from her remark about Snopes and gave her Facebook page a 1 star review, telling fans to beware that she spreads fake news. The momma wasn’t too pleased. But, neither was I. (Update: Facebook removed my review and gave me a warning that I was in violation of their community guidelines. Wow.)

Here’s the trainwreck discussion for your screenshot viewing pleasure:

Wow… so, I’ve learned a lot about fake news today.

  1. Nothing is sacred. People are using the deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade to push an agenda of conspiracy and murder at the hand of the Clintons. Full disclosure: I personally have very little love for the Clintons. But I do value human life and mental health. Stories like these make light of real mental health issues, and even prey upon many people with mental illness. Like my own mother, who happens to believe in a number of “end times” cover-ups and conspiracies all because of videos she’s watched on YouTube.
  2. Logic doesn’t work. Notice how Blom completely glossed over my points about the "article" misusing backlinks to give their story the appearance of credibility. All Madeline Blom had to do was read the story and check out these links to see none of the claims were supported by any of the sources. She merely said questions are good and everyone has them. Um, hello? Am I taking crazy pills? Willfully ignoring valid questions is plain dangerous. Even worse than the people who share these stories without reading them (which let’s face it--that’s nearly unforgivable).
  3. The victim mentality is strong here. She appears to genuinely believe I gave her page a bad review because what she shared might be true. In other words, I’m persecuting her for telling the truth. It could be true, she thinks... so she treats it as truth, and then anyone saying otherwise is not cool aka mean. This is grade school logic at best, though yes, even that’s pushing it. It’s easier for her to believe she’s a victim for speaking out, rather than for her to simply consider my argument. And LOOK at the facts. Oh, those pesky facts are so incriminating.
  4. Manipulation is heavy here too. As a fellow mom, the subtle shaming wasn’t lost on me. We should know better than to trust Snopes, we should give her credit for all the hard work she does to help people lead healthier lives. When I don’t buy it, and I say I’m unfollowing because she’s spreading false information, her response is all too predictable:

Is this really what the world has come to? We get to write off all logic and fact with a pop culture quote which is basically to say, “kiss my ass?”

How did things get so bad?

When I was in high school my teachers all warned us against using less than reputable online sources in our research. In most classes, if we wanted to use an internet source, we had to prove its value first to even obtain permission to include it in an assignment. I graduated high school in the year 2000 knowing that not everything I read online was going to be true.

What changed?

Did we just get lazy as screens became more and more ubiquitous to our daily lives?

Is there something in the water making Americans increasingly naive?

Do we just need to follow the money? Did clickbait win out because sensationalism sells?

I still remember when tabloids were looked down upon and now anyone can write “the news.”

It’s a little crazy. I have a young daughter who’s not even in school yet and I now have to consider how I’m going to teach her to live in this world filled with fake news. What a seriously important task for us parents today that we didn’t see coming.

Clearly, I don't have the answers, but I do know that humans have always been susceptible to bullshit. People have been manipulated by religions, political leaders and more since the beginning of time.

Need proof? Let's consider The Mandela Effect.

Considering that the collective "misremembering" of anything is a true phenomenon is probably the best proof we have that the human brain is susceptible to manipulation.

Maybe this new era of fake news and a president who essentially endorses the obliteration of truth, logic, and fact was inevitable in a species with so many trust issues.

Does is mean we can never trust ourselves?

I don’t think so, but the onus is still on us to enhance our self-awareness--both as individuals and the whole. We’re still grappling with these unintended effects of our digital age and have a lot more to learn.

As with just about anything… proceed with caution.