Faceboozled (again)

It’s hard to page through one’s FaceBook feed without seeing a seemingly endless stream of warnings, well wishes and tips that have been passed on from other FaceBook users. Caring for the well-being of others, sometimes it’s hard to resist the temptation of passing these on ourselves.  We are first an impulse society, especially when it comes to tragic situations. In fact, it’s this emotion that those who create hoaxes that plague social media feed on. It’s the logical side of us that hoax-creators hope you do not use.

I mean, we see it daily, “Click here to pray for this baby”, “Share this will all of your friends with in 3 seconds” or “Share this to win a fantastic vacation”. With today’s economy and recent tragic events we all want to find the best deal and certainly want to pray for anyone who is ailing, and so, what is the harm in passing some of this on, right? Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

Sick Baby Hoaxes

We see it all the time: “Click ‘like’ if you think she is beautiful'” “This is my sister, click like if you think she’s as fantastic as I think she is” or, even worse, “This baby is dying of cancer 1 Like = 1 prayer”. One may think they’re harmless, but actually, they’re the most harmful of viral hoaxes. Certainly, who wouldn’t want a sick baby to be healed or to be prayed for. Who wouldn’t want someone who doesn’t look like everyone else to feel accepted for who they are.

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However, in truth, these viral photos are often stolen from the public websites of the families (for example, Caringbridge or awareness photos on FaceBook), without their permission. Almost always, the disorder or ailment is misrepresented in the photo, which can actually potentially be libelous, especially in instances where child abuse or domestic abuse are misrepresented. Additionally, it could also be a copyright violation when you consider that even some photos originate from news articles about the children. So, by passing on the viral hoax, you’ve contributed to something illegal.

Specifically, this photo to the left is of Tripp Roth. He did not have cancer. In fact, this “Alert” hit me hardest. See, Tripp was born with the same skin condition I have. I don’t have cancer, either.

Tripp died in his mother, Courtney’s, arms on January 14, 2012. Here is his real story.

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The child on the right was not abused, but you’ve probably seen several of your friends share the photo as a proclamation to stop child abuse.  Obviously, sharing a photo won’t stop the pandemic. And though one may think it brings about “awareness”, it actually in come eyes could be considered abusive in itself to share it. Three-year-old Katie Ann Guttridge was not abused by her mother, father, or anyone else. In fact, Katie is not a victim of child abuse at all. This photo was taken from a news story about how Katie was assaulted by a fellow daycare child. She is not the face of child abuse.  Naturally, if you were Katie’s mother, you probably would not want your child’s face attached to an accusation that you or yours abused her, would you?

Screen-Shot-2012-10-22-at-10.10.22-AM-300x153Have you seen Mallory’s photo? She is beautiful, isn’t she? Certainly, it’s obvious that she has Down Syndrome, thus, maybe you assume it’s OK to like Mallory’s photo, right? Here’s the story on Mallory.

Facebook “Like” Scams

“Like” in 3 seconds if you love puppies.

See this photo of this woman with a bad hair-do? Like if you think it’s gorgeous. Comment if you think it’s stupid.

“‘Like’ if you’re against animal abuse. Ignore if you don’t care.”

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I see these often from the (few) teenagers I have on my feed. In fact, most of the sources I see with these themes come from some “Teen” page. I cringe when I see these originate on my feed from an adult. Certainly, there’s no harm in “Liking” a few photos, right?
Generally, no, aside from the fact that when you click “Like” or comment on a public image (an image that has a globe under it as depicted above) you’ve immediately managed to share the photo in the feed of all of your friends. By that logic, then, they click like and then their friends see it. Now, it’s become viral and effectively, has become spam, distracting many from what they really want to see on their FaceBook feeds (for example, how YOU are doing).

This automatic sharing by liking also has its dangers, especially if the source is that with an offensive title. By liking posts originating from a site like “I don’t care what you f***ing think, I’m posting it anyway” you’ve now made the title of that page visible to potentially your mom, aunts, uncles, grandma and possibly even pastor. Comforting thought, isn’t it?

But, there’s more to it. It’s a marketing strategy that you’re being duped into.  So now, not only have you helped someone make money, but you’ve spread spam all over someone’s Facebook feed. Kind of puts a different spin on things, doesn’t it?

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The Simply Not True

More times than not, the response I get to these are “Well, it’s always better to be safe than sorry”. Ultimately, these kinds of forwards we see on FaceBook are urban legends. They’re false warnings designed just to get people riled up. By passing them on, though you’re wanting to be cautious, you’re actually simply spreading rumors.

Like above, you’re promoting spam, and chances are, they, too are a marketing strategy and into making money with these false warnings.

Though you may think they’re benign to pass on, warnings against products and such scares potentially cause harm to the company and cost them money (Ponder for a moment the manpower and cost to a company if a fake recall were passed around, resulting in people contacting said company about the recall). Additionally, there’s logically no sense in passing on a potential danger that is fake, especially multiple times.  Eventually, people will ignore you. And so, when you pass something on that is true, your voice will not be heard, much like The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  Besides, there’s plenty to worry about in this world. False warnings do not make people more aware. They only senselessly create fear in people in a world where there’s already enough to be concerned with.

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Giveaways are another example of things that simply aren’t true. They clog others’ feeds and certainly don’t give anything away, except for maybe your email address that you have attached to your profile or any information you’ve used to ‘register’ with the promotion. Rarely do companies give away things on FaceBook. And most certainly, someone who has won the lottery will not opt to generously share their earnings with a perfect FaceBook stranger. Again, it’s just spam and by “liking” or “sharing” you’re passing it on like we once did with Email.

I Just Don’t Have Any Way of Knowing!

Nobody wants to be unfriended, embarrassed or called out on for passing around something that isn’t true on social media. So, how do you verify if what you read is a hoax?

  • Google is a fantastic tool for verifying. Most Smartphones have access to Google and it takes just an extra 15 seconds to type in a few key words, for example “PowerBall winner giveaway” or even “Nolan Daniels” who, in the photo above, claimed to be the winner.
  • Check the comments on the photo you’re tempted to share. Chances are, by the time it’s gotten around to you, someone has posted it as a hoax or has attached information that proves that it is one.
  • Hoax-Slayer is a great place to ask. People who admin there are friendly and, though based in Australia, are very quick to reply! They have a FaceBook page as well as their own site for posting urban legends.
  • Snopes is another site that generally tells the whole story. Though not interactive, they’re great at giving the low-down and dirty on those urban legends that are age-old.

So, think before you share. Use common sense. And, most importantly, verify, verify, verify.

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About gespurr

Emily was born in Southwestern Louisiana and has moved over 20 times in her life through nine different states. Most of her life was spent in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where she met her husband and had her only child. Both she and her husband are also only children. She graduated from Stillwater (MN) High School in 1992 and from the University of Wisconsin in 1997 with a BS in Journalism. Three years later, she met her husband, George, and they married in 2002. Their daughter, Kathryn, was born early in 2004. She relocated with her family back to Arkansas in 2005 after being away for 30 years. She currently works as a customer service representative for a wireless company and lives in North Little Rock. When not taking care of her daughter she is either cooking, working, cleaning house, sewing, gardening, knitting, crocheting hiking, traveling or spending time with her husband.

Posted on December 16, 2012, in Are you flipping kidding me??!!, FaceBoozled, Social and Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This truly is the sort of web website I like to see! Succinctly written, it’s nifty!

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