'Back to the Future,' Privacy Posts and Celebrity Deaths - Is It Getting Tougher to Trust Social Media?
On Oct. 21, 2015, we will reach an important date in sci-fi history. Or is that sci-fi future? It’s the date Marty McFly traveled to in the 1989 film “Back to the Future II.”
Social media users are probably a bit skeptical, because you’ve probably been seeing posts of “OMG! Today is the day from Back to the Future II!” for years, accompanied by an image like this:
In fact, there’s a convenient generator online where you can create custom images to make any day “Back to the Future” day. But since those fake images have flooded Facebook every six months for the last five years or so, it’s understandable that some might have a hard time accepting the truth.
This isn’t really confirmation, but the Cubs are in the playoffs and have a shot at winning it all this year (just like in the film) and hoverboards are now a real thing. But if you need some real proof that we’ve arrived in the future, here’s a clip from the movie, showing Oct. 21, 2015 as the date.
It will be interesting to see if "It's 'Back to the Future' Day!" posts will continue after Oct. 21. Probably, but it's unlikely they'll be as prevalent as they've been for the last five years.
There’s an old saying: “Trust, but verify.” In the case of interesting facts spreading on social media, it should probably be “Verify, then trust.” Too many people retweet or share without giving what they’ve just read enough thought. Most people can spot an article from The Onion or ClickHole (http://www.clickhole.com/) while scrolling through their feeds (though not all), but sites like The Daily Currant regularly get shared by people who believe the stories are real. Probably because headlines like “Ray Rice Agrees to Fight Ronda Rousey” and “Derrick Rose Fractures Hand Catching Foul Ball at Wrigley Field” are either more subtle or just less funny.
The “Back to the Future” hoax seems to alternate with Facebook privacy posts that regularly hit the social media site en masse on a regular basis. Most people know that copying and pasting something into a Facebook post isn’t legally binding for anything, but we all have that one friend or family member who does it. That’s usually met with a wave of commenters providing links point out that it’s not accurate. To that, the original poster usually replies with “Well, it can’t hurt to post it.”
Other than clogging up our feeds, that’s technically correct.
The Dangers of Social Media Rumors
But there are things that are shared that are more troubling. Reports of celebrity deaths regularly break on social media, . Whenever a celebrity death hoax pops up, it makes it harder to believe when someone like Robin Williams or Paul Walker dies unexpectedly. Plus, it’s unlikely someone like Morgan Freeman enjoys being bombarded with “Are you still alive?” phone calls from the media.
So how do you combat this kind of social media malarkey? The urban legends site Snopes is a good source for debunking posts like these, along with the memes your grumpy uncle has shared about his least favorite political figures. Snopes is good about linking to actual sources and tracking down original versions of Photoshopped or out-of-context images, so you can convince your friends Mr. Rogers wasn’t (intentionally) flipping the bird to little kids.
You also have the option in the top right of each post to hide the post, which has the benefit of also hiding similar posts. If things get really bad, you can also unfollow your gullible Facebook friend. It’s a great technology; it’s almost like we’re living in the future.