Headlines this week proclaimed that President Obama had allegedly given a special exemption to Muslim travelers. The headline shocked and angered Americans because airport security has long included the use of drug and bomb sniffing dogs to insure the safety of travels in and around the United States. The headline alone has caused hundreds to head to their local politicians offices with their grievances and prompted thousands more to email or fax their Congressmen. The problem is that the outrage is fueled by a headline alone and is in no way grounded in actual fact.
The evidence shows that more and more Americans who turn to social media for their “news” are merely reading the sensationalized headlines and not the actual articles. The authors of these pieces are well aware that to get more “shares” you must first create an attention grabbing headline. These same authors know that it’s not about the content of your article but the shock value of what you claim is “in” your article that guarantee’s the piece will go viral.
After spending countless hours researching and then writing a piece for public consumption, I find it disheartening when my stories are shared but not read. My purpose in writing this piece is to demonstrate that far too many of those on social media are sharing irresponsibly. Many are prompted to share a headline that plays to their particular bias even if they suspect it is largely false. When I have questioned acquaintances and friends alike who have done this they often argue that, “Well in this day or with this administration, anything is possible.”
Though there may be some truth to the claim anything is possible, it is not an excuse to perpetuate a lie. We all make mistakes and I have been taken in by more than a few of the satire sites populating the internet these days. In my embarrassment, I have made a list of known satire sites that I keep handy when I see a headline shocker. This list allows me to quickly assess whether the article is even worth the time wasted to click on the link.
This phenomenon is not limited to those on the “left” or the “right” but is an all too common characteristic of both sides. I encourage both sides to actually READ those articles BEFORE you hit the share button. This will help stop a great deal of the useless garbage spreading across the web. For those of us with friends who are constantly guilty of this irresponsible sharing, then I say to you, one mistake is understandable, two mistakes is unfortunate, but a third mistake is a decision to engage in deception. There is a reason Facebook, LinkedIn, Tweeter, Pinterest, and others allow you to “un-friend.”