The Truth Behind Misinformation


Anna Lucia Arguello, Staff Writer

We’ve all heard something that isn’t true in our lifetimes. From neighborhood urban legends to Santa Claus to poorly put together fun fact Instagram accounts, many of us have gained a sense for what’s true and what’s impossible. However, lies evolve with our ability to detect them, and well-meaning people still fall for scams every day. Where do they come from, and what can we do to limit their spread? 

There was an incident earlier this year involving a supposed shooting threat. According to the story, someone was arrested trying to bring a gun onto school grounds. The truth was a lot less exciting. The “would-be shooter” was sick, and there was a fight outside of school over the weekend. Due to malice or ignorance, the stories were combined, and a shooting threat fabricated, causing parents to call for action on Facebook. Thankfully the school was able to respond before the rumors got out of hand, but it just goes to show how quickly information gets around. The story had only started spreading that morning. 

Anyone can start a rumor for any reason. Online or in person, teens are known to gossip. Truth is shoved to the side in favor of the next big story. Reasons for this phenomenon vary, including seeking attention, acceptance from peers, or even to get revenge. Usually, we think of this behavior as childish, something to be left behind after maturing and growing. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. This year’s shooting rumor was more widespread on Facebook among parents than it was even here, and parents were the ones who were hesitant to accept the principal’s reassurance that no threat was present. According to Neil Johnson, George Washington University physicist, misinformation often spreads faster than we can counter it.  

Knowing what to believe is tough when everywhere you turn it seems like someone’s trying to deceive you. However, these incidents just illustrate how important it is to fact check your information. Be skeptical when you hear unsubstantiated claims and look for logical explanations before jumping to conclusions. Sometimes things are simpler and kinder than we choose to believe.