Everyday is April Fool’s Day

Are the memories of the tricks and tomfoolery of April Fool's Day still fresh in your mind? All sorts of juicy tidbits, "facts" and stories filled your newsfeed. You wanted to believe and tell your friends and followers, but you knew most of what you saw were probably just April Fool's jokes. It was a day to be on the lookout for pranks and skeptical of information. In today's world of expedited sharing, that's the way you need to feel every day. The internet moves at warp speed. Users are creating and digesting an astounding amount of information, and social media has made sharing that information faster and easier than ever before. So how fast has it become? Twitter users are sending over 100,000 tweets every minute!

CNN Obamacare Mistake

At that warp speed, users, reporters and news outlets are having trouble keeping up. Remember the announcement of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the new healthcare law? Major news outlets like CNN and Fox News mistakenly reported the wrong ruling in their haste to get the story out first. And recently, as the Catholic Church announced the new pope, Twitter users and journalists all over the world raced to find the new pontiff on Twitter. What most found was a fake account that looked real enough. Rather than taking the time to verify it's validity, even seasoned journalists rushed to announce that they'd found the account and began to analyze what had been said there. Fake-Pope It didn't take long for others to figure out that the account was a fraud, especially when they translated the Spanish tweets that said things like "If I'm pope, kids will love me more than Santa Claus." Yikes… These mistakes are not only embarrassing and reputation damaging, but some social media sharing gaffes have even influenced world markets. Over the summer, a (fake) Twitter account claiming to be a Russian official announced that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been killed. This rumor spread across the internet and through networks of traders in the oil markets. Before enough red flags were raised, the price of crude oil had gone up by more than a dollar per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. To keep from fueling the rumor fire and to maintain a reputation as a trustworthy source, remember these tips:
  • Consider the source: Is this a person or news outlet you trust? Do they have an established reputation for providing accurate information?
  • Consider the source’s source: Is it clear how the source came by this information, or are they just passing something along?
  • Double check information: It only takes a minute or two to vet information on your own – at least on a superficial level.
  • Slow down: Make the time needed to ensure you’re sharing correct information. Take a deep breath and verify before you share.
That last point could be the most important. The internet has become a fight for who can be first, rather than who can be the most accurate and thoughtful. And we tend to think that’s the wrong modus operandi. What you share determines your reputation and becoming a trusted source is far more valuable than being the first person to distribute questionable content. As Will Rogers once said, "It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute." If he were around today, he might change that to a second. So the next time you catch some hot news in your Twitter feed, pretend it’s April Fool’s Day and treat it with some skepticism. You don’t want to end up being the butt of someone’s joke.

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