Fake News — A Dangerous Fire to Play With

Recently for a class of mine, we were asked to post a fake news story and spread it on social media. I decided to try two types of fake news to see the various reactions. Rest assured, after this experiment I will NOT be dealing with fake news any more.

The first story I posted poked fun at Roger Goodell and the NFL, pretending that there was a cemetery for all the fallen football players. This article was from the infamous Onion website, known for its satirical and fake articles. Not surprisingly, I received no feedback on Facebook and only had one response in person: my roommate asked me about about the article to make sure I knew that the Onion did not post real articles. I waited a few days to see if anyone would comment or even notice that I had posted the article, but people simply scrolled by the post.

The second story I posted was a personal one that I made up and posted on Facebook. I pretended that I had been having issues at college and was transferring to another school. Within seconds of posting the story I received likes and comments wishing me well. Within minutes I received a call from my worried mother, and multiple text messages from worried friends. In under thirty minutes I received 30+ likes and 10+ comments on Facebook. I had comments and likes from people I hadn’t talked to in forever, all wishing the best for me. Within an hour my entire family knew of the post and had called my mom asking about my well-being. The news spread like a wild fire — which was really bad because many people believed the story to be true and were very concerned about my well-being.

After an hour, with the guilt eating me up, I posted a disclaimer story on Facebook to assure everyone that I was okay and the story was fake.

There is a POWERFUL take away message learned from all this: fake news is a DANGEROUS tool that should never be used.

Sometimes it is hard to tell what is real and what isn’t on social media. That is how powerful social media is in today’s world: in mere minutes a story can ignite and become a fire too large to contain. Unless a story is posted from an established fake news site, such as the Onion, it is much harder to discern truth from fiction.

This experiment also shows how easy it is to manipulate people on social media, which should warn users to be careful before they post. We have come to trust social media too much; we now give more credibility to Facebook posts, than actual news stories. A recent study showed that 61% of millennials are using Facebook as a primary news source. It just goes to show we all have to be careful social media users and check where we are getting our news from.