Charles Manson is NOT being set free. There is NO killer spider waiting to bite your ass under public toilet seats. Mr. Rogers was NOT a cold-blooded Navy SEAL sniper. Barack Obama is NOT running for a third term. And there is NO 80-lb monster cat named Snowball living in Canada.
Holy crap, people! Why do you believe this stuff and then repost it for other people to believe?
I have seen the same picture of the same mega storm over trailer parks in Kansas, mountains in Colorado, valleys in Ohio and placid lakes in Georgia. It's photoshop! It's not a proliferation of deadly identical storms turning up in a new place on your Facebook feed every two weeks. Really. It's not.
And I hate to say it, but my New Age friends can sometimes be the worst with the alien DNA findings, the proof of the existence of fairies and the conspiracy theories. I have one that is constantly posting "legitimate news stories" about how oppressed and brainwashed Americans are, whether it's Obama implanting us all with microchips or some bill Congress has passed that says we can't smoke in our own homes. For all the non-Americans out there, thank you for your concern, but we've got a pretty groovy gig going here. We may complain, but that's only because we're spoiled.
If it doesn't come from a legitimate news source, it's probably not true. If your proof is a post on some dude's blog, it's probably not true—no matter how many followers he has. If someone swears it must be true because they know someone who knows the guy it happened to, it's probably not true. If you've never heard of the publication the story is printed in, it's probably not true. If it's presented in the form of a meme, it's probably not true. If it comes with commentary that says something like "major news outlets refuse to report this. Help me spread the truth!", it's probably not true. And if it's so shocking and unbelievable that you simply MUST share it now to be among the first to break the news, IT'S PROBABLY NOT TRUE!!!
And, for crying out loud, people, The Onion is a SATIRICAL news site. There are a lot of those out there. Sometimes you have to go to a site's "About Us" to find out that's what they're up to because the stories are so believable, but satire is not truth. They want to make you laugh.
Listen, we've all unknowingly posted a hoax once or twice. I posted the idiotic fairy picture referred to above because a friend I trusted said she knew the person who took the pic. After looking like an ignorant ass for doing so, though, I LEARNED MY LESSON!
If you go "wow, I can't believe that!" when you see or read one of these stories, go with your first impression—IT'S NOT TRUE! And yet time after time after time I see the same people posting hoax after hoax, not because they like to post hoaxes, but because they have somehow been lulled into believing that their Facebook "News Feed" is their own personal CNN news ticker.
Part of my mission on this blog is to help people live more consciously and intuitively. When you blindly push "share" on something sensationalistic or beyond belief, you're not just acting unconsciously, your "intuitive muscle" atrophies a little. Because you KNEW there was something suspect, but trusted the person who shared it with you. You didn't trust yourself. And if you knew it was fake, but posted it because you thought it was funny, say "I know this is fake, but I think it's funny." so you're not proliferating ignorance throughout the interwebs.
How do you check a story out? Simple. Google it. If a legitimate news source hasn't caught wind of the story, it's probably not true. Sure, bloggers and unknown sources have been known to break a story or two. But it's EXTREMELY rare. And when it comes to Charles Manson being released from jail, trust me. It would be all over CNN or FOX or even People Magazine if it were true. Stuff like that doesn't get passed over, nor do people fail to report it because of a vast conspiracy led by Monsanto and/or the gun lobby.
Outside of that, there's a site called Snopes that is usually up to date. If they don't know the truth, they say they don't know. It's that simple. Here's a list of Snopes' Top 25 Hoaxes. Here's another list from another site. It's easier to just post a hoax than to research it, yes. But then you end up embarrassed and looking like a fool when you're trying to impress someone with your knowledge of current affairs and tell them all about how parking lot carjackers are putting flyers on the backs of cars after you get in, so that you'll exit the car with the engine running. Yes, that's untrue, too.
There's plenty of interesting and true stuff that happens every day in our world. There's magic and tragedy and odd animals and injustice all over the place. Why are we looking for more sensationalism, more fantasy, more controversy? Why isn't what we have enough? And what does it mean for the human race when reality isn't enough and we'll believe anything some college dude made up to see how many shares he could get?
For me, I see it making me more skeptical. The bald guy who is looking for his birth parents? I don't believe him or the dozens like him, though he may be totally on the up and up. So people who need help aren't getting it and giant cats who wants to run for a third presidential term are getting all the attention. When you push "share" or retweet or forward emails without thinking, you end up looking ignorant. You do. These stories add more fear and disinformation to the world. And if you're reading my blog, I know you don't want to do that. So stop and think. Especially on Facebook, because it's not like you don't have the time to google it first.
The mindless acceptance of everything you see also blurs the line between truth and fiction in our own minds. When you watch Sci-Fi films where people walk around like mindless automatons, this is how they got that way! In our darkest corners, we fear terrorism, global warming and meteors being the death of humanity. Yet the biggest threat we face may end up being our own gullibility.