How Not to be Fooled

A new boy entered the 8th grade at the school I attended. He was older than I and was apparently worthy of imitation. I made friends and began hanging around him at recess and lunch.

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His worldly wisdom shocked me, but that made the attraction stronger. He would say things out of ear-shot of the teacher that I would never have dared to even think, much less say out loud. Leonard became my leader.

One day at lunch time Leonard suggested that we sneak off campus and walk over to an abandoned park that was near the school, about half a mile away. There were some houses on the way, but we avoided being seen. The park area was overgrown with brush and trees, but there was a usable path around the dark, murky pond.

We walked around for a while, then realized that it was almost time for afternoon class to start. We took off running. We didn’t want to create a reason for the teacher to question where we had been.

As we ran, I tripped on an oak tree root that was partially above ground. I sprawled head first into the jumble of roots and leaves and dirt.

In amazement I heard the word, “Damn!” come out of my mouth. I had heard Leonard say the word often, in response to all kinds of things.

I had never said it, or even thought it, before.

I was mortified. I was ashamed. I was repentant. That was the last time that I hung around Leonard. The principal made that decision easier, by expelling Leonard soon after our off-campus experience.

I had been fooled by Leonard. He appeared to be someone special that would make a good friend.

Being fooled is not pleasant. It can result in being confused, embarrassed, angry. We often make a resolution after being fooled, “I’ll never let that happen again!” Since my tumble, I have never made a friend of anyone who looked or acted like Leonard. Friendship is based on trust, and I couldn’t trust that type again.

Facebook is based on the premise that you make “Friends” with people and share with them.

But, Facebook is replete with people whose self-esteem and fame are tied to fooling people with fake news and fake warnings. Unfortunately, it seems that many people view their fame as more important than honesty. A Like-Farm post that garners hundreds and thousands of hits and shares boosts their personal value in their eyes and in the eyes of others who seek fame at all costs.

We have all been made fools by Sharing a fake, untrue post. I have. And I didn’t enjoy the experience.

Avoid being fooled

It takes very little time to move the cursor and click the mouse on Share.

It takes more time to determine whether or not a post is true and accurate. Here are 5 Steps you can quite quickly take to reduce the chances that you’ll be a fool again.

1. Realize and Accept the Fact: Facebook is not a legitimate information and news source.

Yes, it is used by legitimate news agencies for sharing news and information. But its openness to everyone makes it much like the Old West…

Be skeptical and suspicious of all posts from sources and people you don’t personally know. The old adage is perhaps still wise: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Pay attention to some posts that you know are fake and learn some of the indicators of fake news.

Some websites to investigate regarding fake news websites:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fake_news_websites
www.fakenewswatch.com/
www.hoax-slayer.net/four-quick-ways-to-spot-fake-news-stories/

2. Ask: How does this news or information compare with what you already know to be true?

You have experienced the real world and have a wealth of knowledge with which to compare new information. Take a few moments to think through what you have read and seen as you ask the question How does this measure up with my knowledge and experience?

3. Ask: Is it reasonable? Is the presentation, graphic, and information absurd or extreme? Does it seem reasonable?

True information is usually reasonable. If what you read prompts you to think, This is ridiculous! Or This can’t be true! then pass on it, rather than pass it on. Resist the urge to Share.

4. Ask: What emotion is targeted by the author? Does it tend to make you fearful or suspicious?

Many scam posts are designed to create fear in you, so that you react without really thinking. If you are fearful, you want to warn your friends to be careful. First, you be careful. Move on without acting from fear. Unless you need to dial 9-1-1 for an immediate danger, move on without sharing.

5. Ask: What is the source or authority for the information?

It is possible to discover exactly where a page or post originated. I’m not going to teach that lesson here and now. But check the URL (the web address) that is listed with the post. Scammers like to stay close to a legitimate address, but have to make some change. It may not be obvious until you’ve practiced a while. Check out the sites I’ve listed under number 1 above.

Learn about scam sites, because it’s more than just sharing a Facebook post.

Scammers are trying to get your personal and financial information so they can get your money. Caution! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is false.

If you are an appointed scout with the mission to warn others of all possible impending dooms, become familiar with websites whose mission is to inform readers of scams and fake news.

www.snopes.com
www.factcheck.org
www.fakenewswatch.com

Satire and Hollywood

Some websites are focused on satire, which warps real news and information to poke fun and ridicule at people and organizations. Many late-night TV programs are hosted by show people whose only claim to fame is their ability to ridicule people, events, and ideas in ways that make people laugh.

We should not assume that those performers have inside information that is valuable or specially insightful to help us make decisions about the real world.

Remember, the commercials in which non-actors are responding to an experience or product have the screen warning: Real people; not actors. Think about the implications of that warning the next time a Hollywood character tries to tell you how to vote or think. (Now I’ve gone to meddling in politics.)

And some websites are focused on alternative news which presumes that everything is part of a global conspiracy and nothing except their viewpoint is true. Those sites and people cannot be trusted. There are conspiracies.

The biggest conspiracy in the universe involves Satan. He attempts to keep us occupied with insignificant things so that we don’t have time to pay attention to God’s Word.

Share

What has your experience with Facebook and news been? How do you identify and avoid the fake news posts? Share with me what you have learned. Write your experience and send it through email or in the Comments box below.

**By the way, the featured image is upside down. You probably didn’t notice before. I manipulated it to make a point: it’s easy to be fooled.

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Comment or email me eldon @ eldonroberts.com

Thank you for reading.