People need to stop sharing articles online that they haven’t actually read.
I’m not sure why everyone does this, if it’s laziness or something else, but it’s harmful.
I first noticed this as a common problem when I’d see people sharing articles about missing people on Facebook.
When I’d click the article, I’d see that it was from years prior, and the missing person had been found shortly after they were reported missing. I’m not sure how these articles start making the rounds, but the reason they don’t stop is because people don’t read them.
For articles about urgent and serious topics like a missing person, sharing
it without reading it defeats the whole purpose.
Expecting other people to care about a missing person case while also not putting in the time to read about it, just the time to hit “share” doesn’t help and it clutters peoples’ feeds with useless, outdated information.
When I see people sharing outdated articles about missing people, I try to leave a polite comment saying it’s been updated so they won’t share outdated information, but also so they won’t be embarrassed.
Additionally, sometimes articles can be jokes. I saw an article someone shared on Facebook the other day saying that Rick Astley had died. Part of me knew that the article was likely a joke, a Rickroll. (Rickrolling is a generally harmless and lighthearted prank where one person sends someone a link to something under the guise it’s something else, but it’s actually a link to the song or music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”)
When I clicked it, I confirmed that it was a Rickroll and that Rick Astley is still alive.
However, it got me thinking of all the people who don’t know as much about the internet who would see that, feel sad, share it and never realize it was a joke the whole time. They might spread the word outside the internet, even though it was a joke. They also might feel embarrassed when they learn it was a joke.
I’m not saying never Rickroll people, because it’s silly and isn’t mean-spirited like a lot of pranks, but we probably shouldn’t do it in a way that makes it look like someone died, especially when people who aren’t as tech-savvy may take it seriously.
Like the Rickroll article, there’s also a lot of satirical news out there. If someone isn’t paying attention to the URL for the article they’re sharing, they may unintentionally share a joke story thinking it’s serious.
While most people can easily recognize the Onion or similar sites, the world is getting weirder, and sometimes reality is stranger than satire, so I can see why someone who doesn’t use the internet as much, like an elderly person, may not know that.
Headlines are often attention grabbing, because they are the first thing someone will read for a news story.
Sometimes, they can also be slightly misleading or exaggerated to get readers’ attention.
Print is a dying medium and more news is being shared online, especially in the pandemic.
With the headline and maybe the first sentence or two being the only thing people can see without sharing, it’s much easier to take in limited information from an online article instead of a printed one.
Not only should everyone read everything they share on social media before posting, but we should also be making sure the information is up to date and accurate.
We should also be fully reading things before getting angry, since titles can
be misleading, or there could be other important information later in the story.
If you wouldn’t recommend a friend a book you haven’t read anything but the title of, you shouldn’t be sharing news stories you haven’t read, either.