Misinformation is easy to spread. I’d bet money we have all witnessed this phenomenon on social media. Let’s look back for a second to before these digital platforms arrived—the days of primary school gossip. You have visions of four square (not the app) and Lunchables, enviable amounts of free time and the all-classmates invited birthday parties? We told each other some weird tales. Our imaginations were churning, I don’t blame us. Now imagine giving the kid who claimed to be able to do ten mid-air flips off the diving board a microphone. And then another kid, or maybe even teacher, turns on the overhead PA system and broadcasts what the kid with the microphone is saying to the whole school. The information this prolific diver is claiming doesn’t change but it sure spreads faster, further, and seems a lot more official when amplified by technology (is audio equipment technology, for this metaphor I say, “yes”). Enter social media and ubiquitously referred to “fake news.”
And it’s like a pyramid scheme—no one thinks they’re the one getting duped. How can that be the case? What can we, both as health communicators and as information consumers, do about it? Here are some key concepts to whet your whistle: third-person effect, Spinoza, relationship currency. Those are some interest-piquing words right there.
Give a read to “Why we lie to ourselves and others about misinformation” by Dr. Southwell (who is the social marketing course instructor to two of this here blog’s bloggers, and who also just led an insightful guest lecture which Casey will tell you all about later in the week). If/when inspiration strikes, submit your ideas for the Rita Allen Foundation’s Misinformation Solutions Forum.