Gullible ‘sociapaths’ buy online lies hook, line and sinker
I HAVE coined a new word: Sociapath. No, not sociopath, which is a person with a personality disorder and who possesses no conscience.
A sociapath is a person who is obsessed with social media and does not have the conscience to establish that a fact is genuine before sending it out to all and sundry.
Especially during recent events on the shores of KZN, fake news via social media has become a disease.
I feel like with all diseases it should be expunged and not allowed to fester.
Two weeks ago, along with the devastating storm, came an avalanche of misleading photos and regurgitated weather reports of further impending doom.
On that Tuesday, when KZN was badly ravaged by strong gusts of wind and heavy rainfall, I received a WhatsApp message from a friend.
It read: “Please be advised that the earthquake that happened in some parts of Africa is not yet over because it’s in rotation form. Researchers are encouraging people to stay awake because a massive earthquake is going to occur tomorrow morning at around 2am. It has been proved that the earthquake is caused by the lava of the volcano that is under pressure beneath the earth’s surface. Countries expected to be affected are Zimbabwe‚ Botswana‚ Zambia‚ part of South Africa‚ Mozambique‚ Malawi‚ Ghana and Madagascar (sic).”
This was absolute garbage meant to make vulnerable citizens of KZN quake in their already waterlogged boots.
Then a flood of messages poured in warning of Hurricane Sifiso.
They read: “WEATHER ALERT: Hurricane Sifiso to hit KZN. Please keep indoors as this is classified as a category 3 storm. Heavy gale force winds predicted at 90km/h with gusts of 120km/h reported by Weather Alert SA. Storm expected to subside in 3-4 days. Avoid travelling in these conditions. Please be cautious people. FORWARD TO FRIENDS & FAMILY.”
The South African Weather Service had to do damage control refuting the above report via a Twitter message.
You see, poor Sifiso had surfaced in September already. Reports of his “Second Coming” were widely exaggerated.
More drama poured in on social media – the new bridge being constructed on the N2/ M41 near Gateway had collapsed.
The SA National Roads agency issued a statement that it was a hoax. In fact, a sand bank in the nearby vicinity of Mount Edgecome had collapsed.
It didn’t end there. It was reported that the recently built Cornubia Mall, next to Gateway, had “just been completed, but is no more”.
A photo of a damaged mall accompanied the dramatically worded message.
Sharp-eyed readers saw that the photo was not of Cornubia Mall but, as was later confirmed, it was of Cradlestone Mall on the West Rand that was hit by a severe hailstorm a day before the KZN nightmare.
In America, fake news has become a severe problem too, especially regarding politics.
There has surfaced what has become known as the Trump Derangement Syndrome, which is self-explanatory.
In KZN recently, police warned that perpetrators of fake news could get charged criminally. This was as a result of false news resulting in violence in KwaMashu.
Because of the falsehood, foreign-owned shops were broken into and robbed overnight. Some were set alight and destroyed.
Roads were blocked and cars were stoned when fake news emerged that children in an area were being kidnapped for the sale of body parts.
The sad result of fake news is how emergency and police services, already embattled and having their resources stretched to the limit, are responding to false alarms. Their time is taken up running after nothing, when real emergencies cannot be attended to.
Why do people resort to fake news?
University of KwaZuluNatal media expert Professor Jean-Phillipe Wade said the inventing and sharing of such fake stories is merely “an ego boost”.
People get excited in wanting to be the first to disseminate news without checking its veracity. Before hitting the send button, here is a good tip to heed: If you hear of some breaking news on social media, spend a little time checking out reputable news agencies and media sites and see if they too are covering the story. If it is that big a news item, you can bet it would be covered by them. Number 210 of the famous
Aesop’s Fables well illustrates this modern aberration. It is the old adage of “the boy who cried wolf ”.
The tale is about a young shepherd boy who repeatedly bluffs nearby villagers that wolves are attacking his flock.
When a wolf actually does appear and the boy again calls for help, the villagers believe that it is another false alarm and the sheep are eaten by the wolf.
In later English-language poetic versions of the fable, the wolf also eats the boy.
The Greek version of that parable puts it very well: “This shows how liars are rewarded: even if they tell the truth, no one believes them.”
So, for the sake of good, do not become the tool of the big bad wolf of social media. It may be that one day you may need the police or the fire department to help with your emergency.
They may be too busy running after a well-concocted fable.
Make an effort to avoid spreading fake news. It’s a terribly unsocial thing to do.
A fake news photograph from the Ukraine which has been circulating on Facebook during the recent storm in Durban.