I belong to a local Facebook group that deals in matters pertaining to the small town where I live.
On a given day, you’re just as likely to see an update about the new restaurant opening in town as you are feedback about the new roundabout in front of the high school.
Most of the time, it’s a useful source of news, even if some users go overboard when it comes to sharing information. Since the users are very active, updates pop up in my feed quite often, so I skim them to stay up-to-date.
But like anything on Facebook, there are downsides to letting humans be the ultimate judges of what should and should not be shared.
Last week, somebody posted an update — complete with BREAKING NEWS chyron — that Sargento cheese was being recalled. According to the article, the cheese might kill your entire family if you eat it.
That’s right…your entire family.
Anybody with half of a brain knew this recall was fake news. A five-second Google search would’ve told you the same.
But it’s a lot easier to click the share button than it is to take the time to do actual research.
In their rush to be the first to share this important news, they got it totally wrong, and ended up looking like a fool for being so easily duped.
Sadly, millions of people are duped by fake news on a daily basis. It’s been a year since the election, and we are still coming to grips with how easily foreign agents manipulated a lot of people by paying for ads on Facebook.
At the core of this deception is our intrinsic belief that our beliefs are correct. We don’t have to actually take the time to research potentially dubious news because our belief system is strong and true.
That could not be more wrong.
Confirmation bias is a thing, and it’s only going to get worse.
In the case of Sargento Cheese, it was easy to debunk the claim because it’s just cheese, and the person who posted the content was probably glad they can eat the cheese in their refrigerator, even if they did feel a bit embarrassed to be called out.
But there are far worse consequences to fake news if we continue to be lazy.
I’ve long though universities and colleges will have to change their curriculum in the future to teach incoming freshman how to spot “fake news”, and the 2016 election will be the case study they refer to.
Well, it looks like some universities are starting to put the focus on education so we can be less easily duped.
We might not see the fruits of their labor immediately, but it’s a step toward truthfulness.