If you're on EffBee, you've seen the recent meme going around again, about how you need to copy and paste a whole post in order to survive some apocalyptic thing that will destroy your privacy and such.
I saw it first in this go-around on one of my cousin's posts. So I checked on Snopes, and dropped a link into the reply section to say there's nothing to worry about. And my cousin replied, basically, "yeah, I thought it wasn't true, but it couldn't hurt to put it in, so I did."
For the past several days, I've seen that pattern repeated several times. Person A posts the meme, Person B links to a Snopes type article, or says that it's a hoax, or whatever, and Person A says that they thought it wasn't true, but it couldn't hurt to post anyway, so they did.
On one or two, I've seen Person B or another come back and say, yes, it does hurt, and they should delete the meme.
That pattern of response interests me (way more than the meme, because our privacy is already all gone if we're on EffBee and such).
I've seen several faculty members, including one who's a historian of WWII post the meme and then come back with the response that it doesn't matter.
If we post something untrue at base, doesn't it matter?
I guess maybe I'm rigid, but it seems to me that it does, that we debase the truth when we unthinkingly post falsehoods or promulgate lies. It's orders of difference from denying the Holocaust, but it's the unthinkingness, the multiplication that makes people think that the message is more likely. It's the "hey, lots of people think that vaccines cause autism so it must be true" multiplication of falsehood.
If my cousin (and others) really believed that disaster was on its way, then I'd just think she was uninformed. But she doesn't really believe it, she just unthinkingly passes it along, and then responds with a shrug. There's a weird intellectual laziness. She's got the energy to ctrl c and ctrl v into her status section, but not the intellectual energy to think for even a second before hitting post.
Okay, so my cousin is my cousin, and my Mom does the same things with email memes, but it worries me a lot more when academic colleagues, the people who are supposed to teach, encourage, and support critical thinking do it. (One of these colleagues also posted a meme about how Planned Parenthood is being misrepresented, so don't believe that part. Yes, posting lies matters.)
On the other hand, I'm given a bit of hope by the fact that the first comment on pretty much every posting of this meme I've seen has had a Person B who calmly explains the hoaxiness. And now I've got a couple of posts either mocking the original (Batman slapping Robin for starting in on it, or one about mythical beasties giving the message) or a preemptive missive (along the lines of "hey, this stupid meme is going around again, don't believe it").