Lately, one of my biggest pet peeves has been inaccurate posts on Pinterest and Tumblr. Lots of posts usually feature some sort of jpg image of text in front of a photo or design background. The text can be anything from an item to add to your bucket list on Pinterest to a shocking statistic about a universal issue. But occasionally, because the people who make these posts are your average blogger, fake photos and misquotes get passed on as fact without question. This is a problem. The copy editor in me means I usually make a point to fact check anything remotely controversial that I re-post, not just for my reputation as a journalist but to stop the never ending progression of bad information.
It occurred to me that this is a prime example of why we will always need journalists. Seriously I will freak out if one more old person tells me “oh no, all the newspapers are going out of business, what are you going to do!?” Maybe if you didn’t get all your “news” from Fox, CNN, and Dateline you would realize the constant flow of information that is the internet. There will always be a demand for fact-checked information and quality reporting. The difference is the platform, which has resulted in the transition period we are going through right now. Also, don’t even get me started about CNN’s “iReport.”
Anyway, what bothers me about these inaccurate posts I run across on the internet is the fact that everyone seems to take them at face value. People re-post random things that may not be true without even questioning where it came from or how accurate it is. Now, I’m not saying that sites like Tumblr & Pinterest are anything like news outlets or that they should always be taken seriously. But at the same time, all these facts and random ideas that we constantly re-post do have an effect on our thoughts and perception of facts and truth of information.
My first example: the Martin Luther King Jr. misquote that went viral after Osama Bin Laden was killed. This one is a little different than usual just because it spread so widely about a controversial subject that it was covered by larger news outlets (ahem, once again the need for larger news outlets with trusted information). What made this misquote hard to detect at first was because the second half is correct, but the first sentence, of course the most relevant in light of Osama’s death, is not. It all started with one innocent Facebook status that was misinterpreted.
Jessica Dovey: I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK Jr.
Next up, yet another Gandhi quote. “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” I will admit that I could not find any definitive answer as to whether or not this quote is accurate. It is listed on some quotes websites, but disputed on many blogs, Wikipedia, and news sources. Some critique the quote because it creates an “us” vs. “them” dichotomy with the phrase “your Christians,” which was supposedly very unlike Gandhi. So I say, if you can’t prove it correct, then it’s out. There is evidence that this quote was actually misappropriated out of the following quote: “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians–you are not like him.” —Bara Dada. What bothers me about this quote is how it is often used as a way for people to support their disapproval of Christians. Christians are never going to be like Christ because they are human, not God. No matter how hard we try, we will never live up to Christ, which is why we need God’s salvation. This quote actually emphasizes how different Christ was from the average person, which in a way supports the idea that he is in fact the son of God. Another widely disputed Gandhi quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The best way to figure out if a quote is suspect is to think about the time period that person lived in, and also the nature of the quote. If it sounds too concise, too bumper-sticker-y, then it’s probably been completely reworded to modern standards and possibly convoluted in the process.
Another thing that bothers me on Pinterest & Tumblr–blatant grammar and spelling errors. Maybe this is nit-picky and stuck up of me, but I can’t help it. No, it’s not the word “funnier” that’s wrong. Aloud, really, REALLY? At first I thought this was maybe on purpose, considering the subject matter, but I’m not so sure. If you didn’t get it by now, “aloud” should be “allowed.”
Here’s the next one that has been circling the Tumblr-verse. “At the age of 16, 80% of people have met the person they are going to marry.” First of all, the original source for this post on Tumblr is a sketchy “psychological facts” tumblr that really shouldn’t be calling what it posts “facts.” Second of all, the only other places I could find on the internet about a statistic relating to this always cited it back to a random tumblr site. And lastly, this stat may have been true a long time ago when people rarely traveled far away and got married at a younger age. Nowadays, people can move farther away from home and get married at a later age. If you ask anyone who has graduated high school in the past 20 years, it’s definitely the minority of people who end up marrying someone they knew in high school, and I think it’s safe to say high school peers make up the majority of people the average 16-year-old knows.
Okay last one, I promise. The other day I repinned a photo on Pinterest of this crazy castle on a rock, thinking it looked cool. I briefly glanced at the caption that said, “Dublin, Ireland.” Then my friend Allie, who recently studied abroad in Ireland, pointed out that this photo is definitely not in Ireland.
This made me think about the photo a little harder. Maybe I’m just not that observant and most people initially assumed that this is a fictitious structure, but the caption on Pinterest seemed to indicate that it was a real place. I’m not a Photoshop expert, but the likelihood of something like this existing within the rules of physics seems pretty slim. I couldn’t find the source of the photo, but I did find what I think is the source of the “Ireland” confusion that probably started the notion that this place exists in real life. A tumblr user posted the photo, and her small bio includes where she is from, Dublin, Ireland.
We are all guilty of this, including me. But maybe we should be more careful about the information we are passing on, or the inaccuracies we inadvertently spread, on social media sites. While you may take the harmless photos and facts you see with a grain of salt, as you should, not every person you pass it on to will.