Confirm first, forward later

OK.. so who’s dead now?

No one was immune to the buzz around Michael Jackson’s death last week. You had to have been living in some sort of bubble to not have heard the news.  You may have also noticed that the Prince of Pop’s death was followed by a flurry of rumours circulating around other celebrity deaths – the ‘newly dead’ included (but was not limited to) George Clooney, Jeff Goldblum and Natalie Portman (Just so you know, these latter three are all alive and well, thank you very much!)
Technology and tech applications (internet, cellular phones, Twitter, etc) make it easy for us to generate info bytes and circulate them in seconds – without second thought.  People often forward news bytes without first confirming their accuracy.

Take, for example, the ill-fated Air France flight 447 that went down off the coast of Brazil earlier this month. Soon after, an email was circulated with attached photos reportedly taken inside the craft as it was going down. Granted, they were interesting photos. They looked legit.

But think about it… IF, by some stretch of the imagination, a memory card from a camera WAS recovered from the crash site (highly improbable – it’s the ocean, folks!) – do you REALLY think that the ‘powers that be’ (i.e. investigative bodies from Air France) would release the photos to the public? Highly unlikely.What about the family members of those pictured in the photos? What a scandal! It would leave the airline culpable for the distribution of these (supposedly) genuine photos of passengers in peril.

Yet, technology cannot be held wholly responsible for these falsified reports.  I mean, the technology has proven to be extremely valuable tool in the political and civil upheavals in Iran of late. For the most part communication technologies are almost universally available and are being used to liberally circulate words, actions and activities (sanctioned, unsanctioned, legal and otherwise) that mark this historical time in the Middle East. Such communications enable those of us that are geographically removed from the situation to glean information about the goings-on beyond the 3 minute sound byte filter offered through the nightly news alone. Granted, the information may not always be accurate, it may be biased and in some instances extremist in nature…. But bear in mind that these are turbulent times.  Emotions are high.  And election outcomes, such as those in Iran, under such regimes are bound to be frought with anger and outrage. 

But, with a bit of logical thinking, one can glean a more realistic understanding of the situation. It is important to remember that ‘more’ doesn’t always equate to ‘better’… but it can represent a vast improvement over ‘limited’ and ‘filtered’ (i.e. media). There is no doubt, this spate of information brought to you by your communication tool of choice (cell, email, Twitter) represents a shift in how we communicate, in what we communicate and how we interact and exchange in society. Good or bad, filtering through this mass of information requires a level-head, an “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” approach to things – a healthy bit of cynicism. There are a myriad of supporting tools and search engines online to ‘check’ these seemingly ‘accurate’ reports: is a repository of urban legends and how these rumours come about and is another great resource.

So, for sanity’s sake – yours and whoever else you techno-communicate with… confirm first, forward later!!!!