You Might Be Smarter than a 5th Grader… But Are You Smarter than a Viral Hoax?

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.

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.

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.

10 thoughts on “You Might Be Smarter than a 5th Grader… But Are You Smarter than a Viral Hoax?

  1. Catie,

    The title of your post drew me in and I had to read more! Your reference to the wired article is so applicable to this topic, and I completely agree. We are no longer being conscious consumers because it’s hard for us to filter through the clutter. And honestly, we don’t have time. We’re falling for these hoaxes because we don’t take the time to think “Is this real?” Instead we rely on people in our network to tell us what to believe. We want instant gratification and an “eye-catching” image is sure to do that.
    I loved reading your post and thought the media examples you pulled supported your claims. Looking forward to reading more!

  2. Hi Caitlyn! I really enjoyed reading your blog post. The clever title that you created instantly drew me in to find out if I really was smarter than a viral hoax. Your tone throughout the article was casual, yet informative, which I think is the best way to get people to engage with material like this on the web. I also really liked the shark example you used because in the picture you see the shark, but then immediately the car’s side mirror so you can understand that this picture is taking place somewhere where cars (and people) usually go. Someone who is not thinking about this image as they are consuming it would see this and think OH MY GOD THE SHARKS ARE COMING TO KILL US. This reaction, like you said, is harmful because it perpetrates the spread of fake information and buries the truth under it. Great job!

  3. I agree with your point that internet hoaxes may exist because of how easy they are to create and share – social media allow us to quickly share our thoughts and ideas, sometimes without putting much thought behind them. For that reason, what we choose to share can be intentionally or unintentionally harmful. It is definitely important to create and consume media carefully so that we don’t continue to fall into these traps.

  4. This is such a clever title and a great read! The shark swimming the street is a perfect example of a crazy viral hoax, however I would probably find myself reposting that too! You made some great points about how these viral hoaxes spread positively and negativity but with the proper fact checking and scanning, these hoaxes can be prevented.

  5. I absolutely love the title of this piece. It’s very eye catching and immediately made me want to read. The shark post was a great tweet to imbed because I remember how quickly that went viral and how everyone was talking about that. I honestly think back when it came out I thought it was real too. It’s definitely important to check where the photos you end up retweeting originate from so that you don’t get into trouble. I agree that most people usually remember the hoax instead of the actual truth, which is unfortunate. That makes it even more important to get facts straight and be accurate on all accounts.

  6. I was immediately drawn to this post due to the title, so. clever! Likewise, I enjoyed your written content. I completely agree with the fact that being aware of a viral hoax is dependent on us. We need to be smart and aware about the information that we take and listen to from other others using similar social media platforms. I like the placement your tweets/hyperlinks. All in all, I think your blog post is easy to read and navigate, and also relays important information that people often forget about.

  7. Hi Caitlyn! I really liked the name of your blog post, so clever! You make excellent points about how people make viral hoaxes out of boredom but may not realize the consequences they may have. Has there been a viral hoax on social media in the past that got to you to believe it is real? I know I have done a double take at a tweet or two before.

  8. Caitlyn, this article is very clear and concise, and throughout this read I learned new information that I have never yet seen. I am shocked at your findings that internet hoaxes can go as far as spreading a false image of sharks swimming in flooded streets. I have seen similar images circulate social media in the past, and now I am second guessing whether or not they were hoaxes. Furthermore, it was smart of you to include tweets from Lorrie Goldstein backing the toxicity of internet hoaxes. By including information from a journalist with notoriety, your article is strengthened as readers might be able to match a familiar face to the information they are receiving from your article.

  9. Hi Caitlyn,

    I love the title of your post because it immediately got my attention! I agree it is so easy for anyone to make up a story and then share it. It is even easier to get people to believe these stories! I found the article you included to be a fascinating, and informative explanation about the way our brains work. Thank you for that!

  10. Hi Caitlyn,
    I love your title, it immediately caught my eye and set the tone for your whole article. Your voice really comes through and I like how you incorporated humor throughout the whole post. The whole thing was witty while still making great points about misinformation.

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