After reading only the first paragraph of Emily Gover's article, "The Importance Of Education In A Facebook World" I hit an intellectual wall I knew I had to get over if I was to be effective at helping my students navigate the murky waters of social media.
She encountered a story posted by a friend that just raised warning flags. The article was cluttered with ads, it lacked specific details, and significant mistakes/errors in factual elements (like the spelling of a state name). Upon further investigation, she determined that the image used to support the article was a stock photo that also appeared in many other sites.
How do I know when a chunk of social media content is nonsense or not?
I do... intuitively, it seems, but you can't teach intuition. What intellectual processes are being engaged to detect nonsense?
It's a bit of a detective game. First ask the question, "Does this seem possible? Is this a likely scenario? What do I know already that could support or disprove the proposed scenario." Common sense is a good first filter when combined with life experience. Middle-aged me has some, but the kids? Not so much. Encouraging students to do some fact-checking before responding or retweeting, or Liking, or sharing with 10 friends, students can help.
Try searching for specific details in the post: do the names match with actual people, does the place really exist, are there stories from professional news producers about the issue. Snopes.com indexes, documents, researches, and distinguishes fact from fiction.
Verifying images is a newish capability. TinEye.com has been around since 2008 offering reverse photo lookups. Users can upload or identify an image online and discover other sites where that same image is used. Google images started offering the same service in 2011.
Click the camera icon at the right of the search box in Google Images.
Enter the URL of an image, or upload an image file from your computer. The search will return other sites using that image.
I'm sure many people may suspect a story is bogus but, because it is titilating, or provocative, or outrageous, there's a part of us that wants it to be true - we want to engage in the over-the-top dialogue that comes with such stories. It's exciting, even more exciting when we believe it may be true.
Urban legends as a form of story telling, fiction, modern myths. Hrm, I think we have a new Language Arts project. Let's first differentiate fact from fiction.