Are you a forward person? And hey, this has nothing to do with your morals, but everything to do with your Internet behaviour
m not terribly forward, though like most others, I’m guilty of sending on to friends the occasional piece of information I consider important or terribly funny. On the whole, I think before I click. But I guess I’m in a tiny minority because the league of forward-senders is growing apace. At any given time on at least three of my WhatsApp groups, forwards are pinging away. About health, latest fitness trends and plenty of jokes. Then there are those hoaxes, also spreading like wildfire.
Recently, I got thinking about whether the ‘forward’ trend was going too far. A few days ago, a friend announced she was considering cancelling her daughter’s trip to the seaside because of a forward she received. Beware, said the post. Fish are jumping out of the sea. So a tsunami will be hitting us soon. Please tell your loved ones not to visit the mountains or the sea. Attached was a short video of – yup, lots of fish jumping out of the sea.
Was this real, or fake? Real or the magic of CGI? Was it right up there on the fake-o-meter with the promise of free diamond rings, mobile phones, Audi R8s or Emirates tickets if you ‘share’? Facebook seems to be a favourite home for hoaxes – from the Bill Gates $5,000 giveaway to the ‘Facebook privacy statement’ which promised no public usage of material if only people ‘shared’ the post. A lot of people seem to be getting a lot of pleasure in pranking the world. So no, entering your ATM pin backwards won’t alert the police that you’re being robbed. Raw onions on your feet will only make them smell, not absorb toxins from your body. Nor is Osama really living the good life in the Bahamas.
I asked Kiran Menon, CEO of mobile engagement platform Tydy.it, about why so many people are getting taken in daily. Scamming is more a science today than ever before, he told me. “Scamsters identify what people respond to and target specific human behaviour. Today people are very curious, eager to be in the know about everything. And there’s so much stuff out there.” So how does one suss out the hoaxes? “Don’t click impulsively. Think for a couple of minutes, check on the net first if there’s relevant context — then it’s less likely a hoax. Today’s biggest forwarding zones are people’s mobiles which are always with them. Email scams have given way to mobile messaging hoaxes.” True. My WhatsApp brings me hoaxes along with jokes every day.
There are websites you can use to check the truth of those forwards before you hit the forward button. Hoax-slayer (hoax-slayer.com) is a site I use often, along with snopes.com, urbanlegends, a sub-site at about.com which busts a bunch of Internet myths like the ‘seven-headed cobra’. So step back and analyse a bit before you post. I’m sure you’d much rather be seen as a little chicken than Chicken Little.