I’m beginning to think that Just Jot It January is some sort of jinx, what with all the public figures dropping dead left, right and centre.
Just in the last week or so we’ve lost David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Alan Rickman and Dale Griffin from Mott the Hoople, and now I wake up to the terrible news that Queen Elizabeth has passed away.
Apparently she was taken ill with a nasty case of hypothermia whilst snowboarding in the back garden at Balmoral yesterday and died later from complications resulting from overdoing the Jaegerbombs in an attempt to warm up.
Prince King Charles has asked that the royal family be allowed their privacy in this, his hour of celebration grief.
Ok, that’s not actually true.
But how many of you stopped reading in shock after the first paragraph and googled “Queen Elizabeth dead”?
I’m hoping very few of you, because I like to think my readers are somewhat brighter than that (plus, you probably noticed that this post was tagged “hoaxes”; a bit of a giveaway in itself) and you don’t just automatically believe something on the basis that “it’s on the internet, so it must be true”.
But not everyone online has your finely-tuned analytical faculties (or “bullshit detectors” as I prefer to think of them) and many people will indeed take anything they see as they cruise the information superhighway as the gospel truth.
Facebook appears to be one of the most densely packed credibility minefields for the gullible to pick their way through, with idiotic memes and nonsensical “facts” being posted almost every day by the less discerning web surfer.
I could understand if these cheeky attempts to con people into believing rubbish were in some way humorous or satirical, (it’s easy enough to manufacture reasonably convincing spoofs these days, with all the gadgets, apps and simple technology available to us at the touch of a button) here’s one that took me two minutes to make just now…
…but so many of the allegedly plausible posts I see scrolling past, often posted by friends I know to be intelligent and articulate in any other situation, are so demonstrably bollocks that it amazes me they manage to get through anyone’s bullshit filter without setting off all the alarms on first reading.
For instance, here’s a perennial favourite, the inane response to a con that I’m sure you’ve seen on the Facebook newsfeed, one which seems to do the rounds on a regular basis;
Now, I understand that unchecked optimism can lead to the odd lapse in judgement, but surely nobody realistically believes that Mr Zuckerberg got rich by randomly giving his money away to strangers, (especially when he has all those diapers and babysitters to pay for) so what makes anyone think it’s even worth reposting this stuff?
And then there are things like this next one, which I really can’t get my head round.
Why somebody would fabricate this sort of pseudo-medical nonsense to start with is completely beyond me.
Apart from anything else, there is a very real risk of someone actually taking it seriously and, relying on the idea that, if you get chest pains the best thing to do is have a nice refreshing glass of water and go to bed, could very well result in you waking up dead.
Not all of these memes are dangerous of course.
How about the much-reproduced post that claims to be the “last words of Steve Jobs”..?
…it isn’t exactly malicious, but I doubt his loved ones appreciate their deceased friend or family member’s image being hijacked, in order to service some personal agenda or bid for notoriety.
And yet thousands of people have unthinkingly shared it without even the slightest suspicion that, amongst other things;
a) as a confirmed atheist, Jobs was unlikely to be thinking of God at all, let alone giving him column inches in his epitaph,
b) he would have posted something that was written with such peculiar phrasing and grammar (particularly given Jobs’ well documented perfectionism), or
c) he had such a long and cheesy speech ready to quote at the last minute, even if he’d had the strength or inclination to self-eulogize to such an extent anyway.
Jobs isn’t the only victim of posthumous image fraud of course, there are many others whose pictures have been manipulated for fun or mischief, (like my Dr MLK meme at the start of this post) the best known of which is probably one of the variations on photos of Albert Einstein…
…and, most recently, this photo of the late, great David Bowie and his old mate, Lemmy…
…which is a nice piece of fan-generated wish fulfillment, but the original photo featured Lemmy and his French girlfriend.
So, how do you avoid the crushing disappointment/cringing embarrassment of posting something that is less realistic than The Donald’s hairline?
You use Snopes of course, either that or Hoax Slayer, that way you can post away to your heart’s content and not worry about being ridiculed by your online peers for a Facebook faux-pas.
I know a lot of you are thinking; “What a patronising bastard, we’re not stupid you know!”, but there is at least one person reading this who will be glad of a fact checker (you know who you are, hahaha) and I’m sure they’ll make good use of it in the future too.