I just finished reading a mystery book where the main character has been accused of something she has not done. All arrows point to her and no one believes she is innocent. Of course, she is vindicated in the end and all her friends kick themselves for not believing her in the first place. While reading this book, I couldn’t help feel a sense of outrage on the main character’s behalf. Her so-called friends and co-workers turn on her based on evidence and hearsay provided by other people. They completely disregard the fact that they have known her for years and that her personal character has always demonstrated that she would not have committed the act in question. The accusations were completely unjustified, which became clear in the end.

This story reflects what we have been seeing in social media today. Social media began as an easy way to keep in touch with friends and family we don’t see every day. Photos and reports of children playing sports, family vacations, outings with friends, and even what people are making for dinner, were the mainstay. These light-hearted diaries slowly morphed into rants about equal rights and political candidates, religious debates, and analyzations of public figure’s remarks.  It’s this last one that correlates to the book I was reading.

Anytime a public person writes or says anything, it is immediately spread to the masses through social media. Sometimes it is like playing a game of telephone (remember that one, where you sit in a circle and whisper a statement in someone’s ear around the circle to find out if the last person says the same thing the first person said? It usually isn’t even close). The reports on social media are usually only a fragment of what was said, if they are true at all, and you get no essence of tone, volume, environment, or extenuating circumstances. You are left with the bias of the person posting, who most-likely did not hear the words first-hand, but instead believes what he or she heard or read from someone else.

This is dangerous. There is no research being done into these claims. There is no evidence. There is no first-hand knowledge. The Poster usually doesn’t even know the person they are writing about, and may not even know the person from whom they received the information. They are simply re-posting, and maybe adding their own comments. This is not credible information.  But, many people will form an opinion based on this incredible information. I can’t tell you how many times, during the last election, we saw outright lies being posted, which were easily discredited with a little research. People’s reputations and livelihoods are at stake. It doesn’t always become clear in the end.

No one should take anything they see on social media seriously. Just think about your own Facebook page. How often do you post the complete truth? No filter, no leaving out the dirty details? Look at your friends’ pages. Would you think they are what you know them to be based solely on what they post? With this realization, why would you believe what some random person writes about a public figure? Not that the news media is so unbiased these days, but at least they usually have to have at least two sources for their reports. With social media, you can write and forward whatever you want regardless of its accuracy. Don’t be deceived. Don’t believe everything you read. Do the research and find out what really happened.

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