The Internet's Fake Problem
You may not realize it, but many of the videos you share, quotes you forward, and news articles that win your click are fake. Why? Money of course.
Have you seen the plane at the airshow that landed with one wing? It's totally awesome. And it's totally fake. What about the eagle that swooped down and picked up the baby in the middle of the park and flew off before dropping the baby to the ground? Also fake. Have you seen David Beckham kick 3 soccer balls an impossible distance only to land directly into 3 trash cans on the beach? You guessed it, fake.
Winston Churchill once said, "Seeing is believing."
Actually, he didn't say that at all. But if I put that phrase next to a picture of him on an e-card and pinned it, it would be treated like verifiable fact. Seeing isn't believing anymore because much of what we see, and much of what we read is fake. In fact, the growing volume of fake content is one of reasons why we are continually becoming more and more disenchanted with social media. Slowly but surely, we're all graduating in levels of skepticism.
"I know it's true, because I read about it on the internet" - George Washington
We can't even measure the amount of fake content online anymore. But you know who can? The people and companies that monetize the traffic it creates. "Charlie Bit My Finger" is a 56 second YouTube video showing 2 kids, one of which get his finger bit. The father has been paid over a half a million dollars for the traffic it produced. Clearly you can see the motive behind "going viral." Just figure about $4,000 per million views.
How about those fake quotes?
"Expectation is the root of all heartache." - Shakespeare (did not say that)
"Well behaved women rarely make history." Both Marilyn Monroe & Hillary Clinton did not say that.
"I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction." Albert Einstein (did not say that).
"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." - Martin Luther King (did not say that).
Know this - Your click puts money in someone else's pocket. You can quote me on that.
Here's the fake problem: It takes a lot of real work for real content to get real clicks. It's much easier for fake content to get clicks, views, & page loads - hence the rise of so many fake news outlets. Fake news create outlandish headlines that are carefully crafted to win your click. And they are winning, all day, everyday. But what does this do to real news and real content? For one, the headlines for real news often aren't nearly as interesting as those for fake news. So the fake news wins. Pick your story - "[insert celebrity name] Dies", "UFO Sighting on San Francisco Freeway", "iPhone 6 to come with Hologram Technology", "MH370 Found." and the list goes on and on. One of those probably would have won your click. I know the iPhone example would have gotten mine.
Here's my rule of thumb - Verify the Viral
Thinking about reposting that story, retweeting that incredibly relevant quote, or sharing that unbelievable news clip? Spoiler alert - it's probably unbelievable for a reason.
This practice has put the real news outlets in a real pickle. They're watching their click count go down while the virally fake are gaining click-share. So what do they do in return? Well, this:
"You won't believe what this mom did to her toddler."
"Why Obama's Use of this word is so important."
"What this mom saw left her in tears."
"This looks like a normal painting, but when I saw the truth, my jaw dropped to the floor."
"Clinton gets booed off stage, but not before saying this!"
In response to the internet's fake problem, the real news outlets are dropping to the most desperate of teaser headlines. This will only hurt them in the end. It won't take long before each and every one of us are sick and tired of being fooled into news stories of no value. We pay with our click & our time, and we gain nothing in return. We will all stop clicking eventually.
So, how do we solve this problem? Easy. Verify the Viral. Apply the internet's justice system, "fake until proven authentic." Question the author. Who published that unbelievable news clip? CNN, or M&M Breaking World News Inc.? Hint, you've never heard of one of those. Chances are it's fake. For that 100 year old quote that is amazingly relevant today? Google it. Did Einstein really say that? If you're going to forward it, at least make sure it's legit. Your click & share has value, so treat it that way. Think about it, if a full grown eagle really flew down and picked up a baby, don't you think someone like NBC or Fox News would have picked up the story?
You CAN help. Verify the viral.