Are you one of my friends who unwittingly shares fake news stories on Facebook?
And feels mortified when you realize it obviously wasn’t true?
You just didn’t read it carefully?
(But a girl can try…)
It’s okay. Shh… Shh…You’re not alone. I say this first because there are a lot of other idiots out there like you who don’t critically read. Second, you’re not alone because I’m mortified too – both for you and for the fact that everyone knows you’re my friend now. Embarrassing for me, right?! But it’s okay. I’m here to help. I’ve seen way too many of these stories spreading lately, so I’ve drawn up a few points for you to peruse before you spread “news” like an idiot virus anymore. This will be nice for both of us because now you won’t look stupid[er than your profile picture and psycho statuses make you look], and I don’t have to judge you every morning while I sip my coffee.
I prefer to save that sort of thing for later in the day.
And with that, we won’t waste any more time. ‘cause I know reading’s not your “thing”.
Onto the tips!
Hyperbolic statements and ridiculous details
There was a story a while ago that Facebookers played right into – about end times.
A comet was hitting earth, they said. We were all going to die, they said. When? The 35th of March. Oh, no. I have an appointment that day. Can we reschedule? Let me check my cosmic calendar. I’ll have my people call your people. We’ll do coffee. At DeathStarBucks. These stories are always my fave because they’re an excellent experiment in action; someone, somewhere in a labcoat is running a test and noting who’s a reader and who’s a skimmer. At least, one hopes these folks are “skimmers”. Because if that many thousands of people don’t register details like “eleventy billion” as being a patch on a fabricated quilt before Facebook sharing it as doom-porn, I hope that comet hits.
On a real day.
And real soon.
Devil’s in the details – or lack thereof
Does there seem to be something missing from the story you’re reading?
Like all those annoying details you usually gloss over anyway? Where the doctor’s from? What his specialty is? Where a press conference was held? Those are generally present in f’real newscasting. That said, sometimes the faux-tales will add these in, too, just to see if you’re awake. For example, if you see “Dr. Dahktor, neurosurgeon, Johns Hopkins Hospital, reported that prevention of this new, highly contagious venereal disease can be attained via seasonal cootie shot vaccine,” it probably isn’t true.
Point is – a lot of sites pay based on word count and if obvious easy-for-a-reporter-to-find-out details (like the age of a person in question, their profession, what state they live in) haven’t been added by the guy writing it, that’s one good red flag.
Lack of media
Are there pretty pictures? Or just a bunch of those annoying letters and word things?
Another way sites make cash is by how long readers hitting the page stay on it. So, look for a clip of the alleged happening – from Youtube embeds to a news outlet to a potato filmed something-other-other of someone screaming “Worldstar!” every five seconds. If a writer wants to keep you on their page, they’re going to captivate you with dazzling Facebook fodder, embedded celeb tweets, videos, and Instagram photos straight out the horse’s mouth.
And then there’s news clips. Larger sites sometimes embed from news distribution networks, so if nothing else, you’ll find some kind of a topic-related clip in there as an afterthought from them to appease the deal gods. Then again, even if the clip is relevant, look for clues of a con. It might be an “Onion” style skit. Does something seem a bit “off” about the anchors? Like they’re dressed kinda slutty (and you’re sure you’re not just watching “The Five”)?
Or they haven’t quite yet lost their souls to show business?
Probably satire, then.
Look for hyperlinks to sources.
Then click on them to see if they check out.
Anyone read the “Facebook will start charging you money” story?
Anyone fall for it?
The scrolling headlines about the first lady’s dirty selfies up top should be enough to tip you off. But if they’re not, know that serious news outlets won’t add a long quote from an angry user about his “girly” subscriptions who then goes off on a tangent about spoof news sites, unless that’s a “nudge-nudge-wink-wink” self-reference. I feel like they could’ve made a fantastic yes-and to this story by saying Mark’s charging ’cause he can’t afford all the long term noisy renovations on his house (the renovation is a real story that’s really annoying neighbors).
If the story’s something you’d hear about if you turned on the actual T.V. – some big name in entertainment or politics getting dead, for instance – then it’ll be everywhere if it’s true.
Had I moved off grid last year, news of Paul Walker’s death would’ve still found me via smoke signal. I’m sure of it. So, one thing you can do is a “trend check”. Is it on the sidebar of your Facebook newsfeed? Is everyone talking about it on Twitter? Is it somehow being unwelcomely piped into your phone via that one app you regret installing? If not, check a news station or news website. Although the big media conglomerates aren’t honest in their coverage of news and omit a shiz ton of relevant info, they still follow the law of “if it bleeds it leads”. So you can at least depend on your Fox, NBC, ABC, and whatever else happens on those lower channels for your lower vibe interests – like all your gorey updates without too many lies interwoven.
What’s in a name?
I think most people know what “The Onion” is by now. While I’m not sure if that name’s obvious or not, some site names are terribly obvious if you bother to look – like “TheSpoof” (we all know what spoof means, mmmyes?) and “UnconfirmedSources” (obviously if there’s no source confirmed, the story’s not true, right? Revisit my “check the links” section, if you find yourself confused.)
Crazy content’s not always false
The mammary authenticity on the three breasted lady, for instance, is still being checked out. But the only lie about the sharing of this particular story on a news outlet – is that it’s newsworthy at all.
Little context goes a long way
Story seem both unbelievable and random?
Perhaps it’s a “yes-and” joke to something that just happened.
Like The Daily Currant’s story on Kanye demolishing a wheelchair kid’s team in basketball (after he really did ask a wheelchair bound dude to stand up at his concert). Or National Report’s “Benghazi” tee shirt (on the heels of the actual Kent State sweater they pulled and apologized half-assedly for) That sort of stuff is helpful to discern more “subtle” satire sites. Unfortunately, it means being up on pop culture. Celebs or corporations who’ve just earned bad press for acting the fool are an excellent and obvious parody target – because anyone who wants to stay relevant isn’t going to go out and do something as bad or worse.
Well, that was fun!
And just to make sure you don’t have to embarrass yourself on my social media feed any longer, let’s finish with just a few specifs you can add to your faux news collection. Some, I’ve already mentioned: “NewsMutiny”, “Hollywood Leek”, “BorowitzReport”, “DailyCurrant”, “PrivateEye”, “NationalReport”, and sometimes they even come with a fantastic “real” news style logo to troll you – like “CAP news”.
Aaaand I’m bored of writing now. Go to snopes if you’re still stumped.
If you actually read this far, congratulations, my less-dense-than-I-thought friend!
Tell me and I’ll award you human validation via “thumbs up” on your next Facebook rant!