A Lie is a Lie

Fake news is everywhere. There are hundreds of websites devoted to just posting fake news. Sites like ‘The Onion’ for example, survive by posting funny fake news stories each day. The sad part is that most people believe these stories as they are posted on social media. Social media is a gathering for news stories. In fact, most college students find their news stories this way today. But how do we differ the real from the fake? No one would ever imagine a close Facebook friend sharing fake news on their own page, especially if this person is trusted on reliable information. This was the study that we had to complete. Posting on our own pages some ‘fake news’ to get a reaction from followers in order to analyze how this ‘fake news’ spreads.

In order to accomplish this study, I had to lie to my followers on social media. This was the first hardship that I had with this project. I did not want to lie on my own page for my 1,782 followers to see. I was certain it would ruin my Facebook reputation. Normally, I post to update about my life or share cute videos of dogs. I do not tend to stray from these usual monthly postings. So in an effort to continue this trend, I decided to create my own story about my life to share through the social network I use the most, Facebook.

The post I created was: “Update on some life advice. I am happy to announce that I have been accepted into the Master’s Program at York University in York England for Medieval Architecture.” While it is true that I am a college senior looking to advance my career by getting a Masters Degree, it is not true that I am looking to study in York, England for a degree in Medieval Architecture. In just about two months, I will receive my bachelors of arts degree in Multimedia Technology Strategies (integrated media arts, communication, information technology, marketing) and hopefully will continue my education in Marketing Communications from Penn State University Harrisburg. As many of my followers know that I am looking to continue my education, I decided to change the major to see the reaction.

The post received 248 likes and 27 comments. I received 10 personal texts and a lot of confused snapchats related to the news all within 20 minutes of posting on Facebook. I studied in York, England for a semester of study abroad and most of my close teammates and friends commented in excitement for my return. My close friends at home were very confused and many friends and coworkers congratulated me with the utmost respect. I really apprecated all responses and support I received. I feel terrible for lying to those who trust me.

The reaction I received surprised me completey. I know that everyone is on social media constantly, however I was not aware that the post would circulate that quickly. The amount of responses I received was more than I have ever gotten before and at a speed I was most impressed with.

Another thing that really surprised me was the amount of people who did not comment on the major I chose. In order to get a masters degree, you need to have studied that degree before. I have never, nor will I ever study history or architecture. Those close to me know that I hate history and numbers and were confused by the news. Mentioned before, I am a communications major and enjoy learning about how people talk. Most of my friends know this. This experiment helped me to understand how people react to certain news on social media, especially if it is from a close friend. I found that communication is very different on social media than in face to face. The lack of certainty of an audience reach makes posting on social media harder as you don’t know who you are going to be talking to. Anyone can view your profile at any time. Because of this reason, I normally keep posts as true as possible. Credibility is important and I aim to keep mine strong so people can trust my word.

When I posted about the study, people were dissapointed in me. Surprisingly, most of the people who stressed their disappointment were those who saw I was no longer returning to England. This was the part I did not think through as I did not want to upset so many people.

Lying or posting fake news on social media is something that happens too often now-a-days. The good thing is, sometimes people catch these lies and call-out the poster. This makes for a very funny conversation in the comments below a post. I have seen several videos of this and will continue to until social networking sites no longer exist.

I would not do this study again if given the option. I feel too guilty for lying to all of my close friends and family. I hated the fact that everyone believed the story was real and that only a few questioned the major. This makes me feel like people trust me and believe what I am posting. That is one factor of this study that really surprised me.

No further studies will be made like this. I promise.