Social Media Spreads Fake News To Teens

by Leah Peloff ’18

A couple weeks ago, a teenager tweeted a text sequence between her and her friend talking about how the Juul, a commonly used E-cigarette among young people, causes cancer. Because of the severity and apparent importance of this information, thousands upon thousands retweeted the post and started a nationwide epidemic of fear that many teens would develop a deadly disease from the short amount of time they have been using the E-cig.

Not more than a day or two after this information spread to hundreds of thousands of people, it was found to be false. Juuls have been popular for too short of a time to be fully assessed on their long-term health impacts. This trend of retweeting flashy information before thinking is a plague that has infiltrated the lives of younger generations. Teens often believe everything they see online and that has potentially serious and chaotic implications.

When most people think fake news, they think of some biased news broadcasting network that will support any story that fits their agenda, regardless of accuracy. They often envision a corrupt politician, or an uninformed reporter, not a simple post on an online platform. But with such a heavy emphasis on social media in society today, it has become an unassuming way to spread false information to many people in a short period of time.

For example, many people hate the new snapchat update, so someone tweeted a photoshopped message from snapchat stating they would revert back to their original format if 50,000 people retweeted that tweet. Within a day, the post had over a MILLION retweets. Was anything done? Nope. This was just another person looking for attention at the expense of their gullible peers. Similarly, people will post things like “1 retweet= 1 dollar donated to cancer research.” These will sometimes get tens of thousands of shares, but most likely this person is not actually going to donate their college tuition just because people retweeted them. Although it may not always be a life or death situation, these posts are still intended to deceive others simply for the popularity, which should be a larger topic of concern.

There is no denying that seeing something shocking online creates a strong urge to share the story without much question. But, as many people saw with the “Juuls cause cancer” story, this mindless retweeting can create widespread turmoil. Society can criticize the corrupt media and sleazy politicians, but in reality, many of us participate in spreading fake news without even knowing it. Instead of always hitting “share” or “like” or “retweet” we must learn to think critically about whether what we are sending out for the rest of the world to see is actually based on facts of simply the whir of the moment.