From Chain Mail to Internet Hoaxes – The Never-Ending Phenomenon

Are social media hoaxes a continued version of the “chain mail” concept? As a 10-year-old, I received daily emails threatening bad luck for 50 years unless I forward the messages to 10 friends – and little-old-me believed every word. As I’ve matured, I have learned to distinguish the true from the false. But when statements circulating social media threaten people’s personal safety, they’re easy to believe. The recent viral hoax, which claimed that users’ photos would be made public, pulled at people’s emotions, causing it to quickly go viral.

Internet hoaxes may be created for the pure satisfaction of seeing many people fall for something false. However, their purpose is to remind users to be mindful on social media. Internet hoaxes encourage people to pay attention to details and scroll through their feeds intelligently. Most importantly, they generate conversation.

Even people who fell for the Instagram hoax, like Rick Perry, were quick to poke fun at their mistake and start conversations.

In some cases, internet hoaxes can be helpful because they remind users to step back and analyze the media they are consuming – an activity that’s often overlooked. Rather than jumping to conclusions, it’s in the user’s best interest to fact check and research the source of a social media post first.

Nevertheless, internet hoaxes can also be harmful. According to EFF, “people are legitimately concerned about the power of giant companies like Facebook, and it’s kind of believable that it’d be able to make these kinds of rules” (Trendacosta, 2019). These hoaxes emphasize the need to be mindful of both the content users consume and the content they personally upload. Although Instagram does not intend to make users’ photos public, participating in social media gives them easy access to people’s public information, so it’s important to be aware of what we, as users, contribute.

4 thoughts on “From Chain Mail to Internet Hoaxes – The Never-Ending Phenomenon

  1. I think that your explanation for why people create hoaxes is very valid and strong. I agree in the sense that hoaxes are there as a general, and sometimes harsh, reminder that people need to be cautious about what they are posting on their social media accounts. Regardless of if someone thinks that just because they deleted something it won’t ever be found again, when it’s out on the internet, it’s out there. Although in this day and age there is so much excitement about all the new technological advancements, this also comes at the cost that there will be even more sneaky ways for hackers to retrieve users personal information. That is why with this evolving technology, we need to evolve our decision making and be sure to fact check so we don’t end up falling victim to hoaxes. Also, side note, I love the tweets you included in this post as well, great job!

  2. This introduction had me hooked! Very creative and relatable. The introduction then does a good job at providing background for why we usually respond with emotions rather than checking the facts. You did a great job at flowing your written analysis into the tweets relating to the topic. Internet hoaxes are not going away either, and I enjoyed how you brought attention to the fact that we need to do a better job in recognizing them and putting in analysis. With this blog post, I’d also be further interested to know how users could fact check. With so much fake news and false information out on the internet, how do we not know we aren’t reading more fake news when fact checking? Overall, your blog post was engaging and very interesting to read through.

  3. The Rick Perry tweet is awesome! I completely agree with your last line that Instagram is a public platform and participating makes you vulnerable to information being shared. I think people forget that THEY are putting themselves out there. Instagram didn’t force them to upload that picture.

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