Social media is a way to make connections, share ideas, content, and stories. However, because of its partial anonymity and ability to instantly share, it enables the spreading false information to a wide audience at a rapid speed. Viral hoaxes have become a regular occurrence, flooding social media platforms. These hoaxes are easy to believe, and you may be unaware you’re even falling victim.
Why do people start viral hoaxes? Possibly because of how easy it is to create a fake story and spread it instantly. Maybe people are bored and looking to have fun, but they could be looking to cause harm with their misinformation. Another important question- why do we keep falling for these hoaxes?Wired published an article discussing why users get tricked, explaining the brain’s vulnerability to hoaxes that appeal to people’s emotions or intuition, because usually people aren’t spending time thinking about what they see on social media. For example, this reoccurring hoax of a shark swimming in a flooded street.
I'm really hoping I don't see anyone posting that shark next the boat in a flooded city photo this time around but I am fairly confident someone will post it and someone I know will repost it. 🤦♂️ https://t.co/gRjHrI4VXu
— Raymond Durk (@RaymondDurk) September 3, 2019
This is a hoax seems to cyclically return to the social media world (usually during natural disasters like hurricanes), and yet people continue to believe it. An eye-catching image that looks at a glance looks believable, yet just not actually true. While this hoax is seemingly neutral, there is potential for harm to come out of these internet tricks.
The perpetrators of fake news don't give a flying you know what if the story turns out to be a hoax. All they're after is the initial story that went viral.
— Lorrie Goldstein (@sunlorrie) August 13, 2019
Even when hoaxes are disproved, it might be too late. People often don’t follow up to find out the truth, and only remember the hoax. This can be harmful and perpetuate the spreading of false information. Because of the danger and harm that can be caused by the spreading of misinformation by these viral hoaxes, it is up to us as social media experts to monitor and fact-check viral information to prevent any potential harm.