Don’t Be An Internet Dupe – How To Know If Stuff You See Online Is True Or An Urban Legend
I can’t count the number of times in any given day that someone posts an urban legend online, all in a panic over kids being stabbed by drug-filled hypodermic needles in McDonald’s ball pits, rapists using children to lure their victims, that the surfaces of cut onions are more likely to cause food poisoning than warm mayonnaise, or some similar nonsense. The people who post these things are well-meaning, of course. They just want to warn their friends and family about dangers to avoid.
Then there are the folks who share “life hacks” they’ve found online, some of which are real winners…and some of which are just colossal wastes of time.
So before you click that “Share” button, or forward this kind of email on to your contacts, check out these simple ways to find out if you’re about to spread an urban legend or useless piece of advice.
Sites That Debunk Urban Legends
You can go to any of the following sites and simply do a search on the item in question:
Snopes – THE go-to site for exposing urban legends
The Straight Dope – an excellent resource for getting to the bottom of “common knowledge” and “conventional wisdom” -type claims
The Purportal – especially great for sussing out spammy / scammy emails
The Skeptics Dictionary – here’s the place to find actual facts and scientific research to throw back at the person who claims the Moon landing was a hoax or that the Chupacabra is real.
Mental Floss Tests Life Hacks
Life hacks are those things people like to post online to supposedly provide simple, low- or no-cost solutions to everyday problems and needs. For example, one life hack says you can easily get all those annoying, unpopped kernels out of a bag of microwave popcorn by cutting a small corner off the popped bag and turning it upside down to shake the kernels out into the trash. Sounds like it would work, right? Only it doesn’t. I know because I was able to watch someone actually attempt it on YouTube.
Those clever folks at Mental Floss are regularly testing out life hacks like that one, and they’re posting videos of their tests on YouTube!
Note that while these videos may have the word “debunked” in them, that doesn’t mean all of the tested life hacks turn out to be worthless. The best parts of these videos are when the host predicts a given hack won’t work, and it does!
Also see this very interesting Mental Floss video, which debunks 50 things most of us believe without question even though they’re totally untrue: 50 Common Misconceptions. For example, do birds really explode from eating rice thrown at weddings? The answers in this video will surprise you!
So don’t be part of the problem when it comes to the spread of misinformation: get your facts straight first, then share, forward and ‘Like’ with confidence!