There has been, understandably, a lot of talk about fake news lately. After all, multiple stories have surfaced recently about individuals and companies who have knowingly written, posted, and shared completely fabricated news. NPR recently covered the founder of Disinfomedia, for example, who has made a good sum of money writing up stories people love to share. People are tearing their hair out and lamenting the days of real news, and I suppose that’s a reasonable reaction. However, I have to pose the following question. Would fake news sites continue to pop up and crank out content if said content was NOT rabidly shared?
Fisher Price and the Happy Hour Playset
If you are not keeping up with politics and the world, it can be hard to differentiate true stories from fake news. I mean, there can be some nuances there. So, instead of analyzing how people reacted to fake news during the political season (besides, who wants to talk MORE about that?) I want to talk about a more recent scenario in which people reacted before actually thinking.
A picture started circulating on the interwebs that showed (allegedly) a Fisher Price Happy Hour Playset. The picture noted that the set came with barstools, bottles, and the bar. According to CBS News, some people got the joke right away, but others, well, not so much. The Fisher Price Facebook page was inundated with posts where shocked parents and grandparents asked the company what they possibly could have been thinking.
Another post could be written about how effectively Fisher Price handled these posts. Instead of flying off the handle or wryly questioning the ability of some people to find humor in the world, the Fisher Price social media team responded to each post noting that the product is completely fake.
What I really want to focus on though is that people willingly responded with outrage in a very public venue before stopping to think, “Huh, would a toy company really put something like this together? Maybe I should double check this.”
It’s no wonder that there are sources out there who will put out even juicer tidbits that they know will go viral. More to the point, traffic to their websites will spike and earn them more money.
So Who’s to Blame?
A lot of blame has been tossed around of late. “The Media.” Fake news sources. Political candidates. The answer might be a little harder to swallow, however. The real fault might be with us, because we react before we even read (often) or digest. We see something and (admit it) think, “This will get a lot of reactions.” So we share. Sometimes people post without even seeming to pause to think about whether what they are sharing should be shared. Yes, folks, the blame for fake news might just rest on our own shoulders.