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How Facebook Misinformation Makes You Look Like an Idiot

Do you ever read something on your Facebook Newsfeed and think, “There’s no way this is true?” And maybe you’re disturbed to notice it happening more and more of late. But here’s the frightening part…

It turns out a good bit of people use Facebook as one of the main sources from which they get worldly information.

One study out of the UK pegged these people as having a “lower need for cognition” and guessed that they do not frequently read news reports… Does this shock you?

Probably not. And you may even be the type to research a suspicious topic to see if the source or story is valid. You, my friend, are a unicorn.

Many people skim on through their Newsfeed, passively digesting most of the things they come across as at least passable. Nothing to look into.

But here’s the problem:

Even if you do take the time to research some claims, you can’t look into everything… You would never be able to leave the internet that way!

And so some “news” or “fact” eventually seeps into your brain through Facebook and something terrible happens. You experience what is called ‘Source Extinction’.

You retain the information that you grazed over in your brain but cannot recall where it came from. And that’s where it gets dangerous.

That’s when you become the foolish one, the one spreading misinformation.

The topic you grazed over may come up in conversation and next thing you know, you utter something you picked up on your Newsfeed. Uh-oh.

You don’t recall it being from a headline your conspiracy-theory-loving friend posted, so you just say it… It’s the only information your brain can retrieve on the topic, after all.

I, in fact, did this very thing the other day over a political issue.

It was something I felt myself wanting to believe and I just had to share it. It was such a juicy tid bit… TOO JUICY, I realized as soon as the words left my mouth.

So, I attempted to recover with, “but I don’t remember where I heard that.” Ugh, “am I an idiot”, I whispered to my computer screen moments later, scrambling to find the original post.

I finally was able to research the “fact” and found that it was garbage just as I had expected.

A wild claim drawn from terrible research… God, I was so angry with myself.

I commented on the post with nothing but a link to a credible source refuting the claim.

Later, I came to find that my comment was deleted and the claim received more than a dozen new Likes and a few extra Shares.

So what did I do?!.. I closed my computer, calmly put on my swimsuit, and went to the pool outback to throw my nephews into the water like human torpedoes until my arms gave out.

That’s really the only way you will ever “win” when it comes to the internet. You must move on…

You must realize you will fall victim to ‘Source Extinction’ at some point.  

You only need to challenge your own words as you say them from time to time.

How Facebook Misinformation Makes You Look Like an Idiot

James Emry

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APA Reference
Emry, J. (2017). How Facebook Misinformation Makes You Look Like an Idiot. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 22, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/psychology-personality/2015/09/28/191-james-emry/


Last updated: 22 Jun 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jun 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.