Twitter, Golf and the Dangers of Immediacy

I declare myself guilty. I don’t like waiting. I don’t enjoy reading user manuals; I rather try to assemble the table fan as Lego pieces because two minutes of reading instructions seem like a waste of time. Sometimes I even skip minutes of a dreadfully slow film scene (Thank you Netflix!) because I just want to know what happens next. I like my things immediately.

Hey, even this post has an estimated time of reading. Medium knows you don’t want to read too much.

Everyone! I know!

In an era where enormous amounts of information are within reach, the anxiety for being the first to know and/or the ferocious competition to be the first informer causes the truth to hide behind piles of sounding –and sometimes false headlines.

We are in a hurry, and that makes us look no further beyond the big letters, in the same way ole fashion yellow “journalism” made us behave.

Every day, social networks like Facebook and Twitter are hit by an avalanche of fake news and rumors that seem to fit to the latest trend but also -this is important- to our own train of thought.

Thus, people share posts from parody websites - like The Onion, dubious news websites, and self-called experts, as REAL information because the headline is absolute, imminent and inviting to action; yet the most basic action of reading the whole article and checking the facts is neglected.

Twitter — for instance, inherently limited to 140 characters, makes it difficult to express a full thought, leading the writer to break and idea into several tweets or to add a link to an external blog who almost nobody reads.

Just imagine this:

Act 1: You see a post saying “WOMAN WHO ALL HER LIFE THOUGHT SHE WAS AFRICAN AMERICAN TURNED OUT TO BE WHITE!! For more click here” .

Act 2: You don’t click there.

Act 3: You re-tweet.

If you’re thinking — like most people did- that such woman was the infamous Rachel Dolezal or someone like her you will be wrong. The woman of the story was a white girl adopted by African American parents with a very different life.

Scenarios like the above - specially if the post is touching an economic, racial, or political nerve - could potentially cause thousands or even millions of readers to have incomplete or wrong information assumed as truth, shared as axiom and defended as gospel.

Some statistics

A study conducted by Dan Zarrella in 2012 http://bit.ly/1t2IOa6 on almost 3 million tweets found out that 16.12% of all Tweets had more re-tweets than clicks. Also 14.64% of the re-tweeted tweets had zero clicks. This means that people just re-tweeted without reading.

Although that analysis applies to those tweets — other topics with other demographic groups may have different outcomes— we can conclude that certainly not everybody clicks on a tweet link … unless it’s gossip, then empirical evidence suggest you’re going to click on it ;)

What on Earth does this have to do with golf?

I read an article on the Washington Post http://on.wsj.com/1mISTUp about how “millennials” — because labeling people is a thing — are systematically losing interest in Golf.

Who can blame them? It’s out of fashion, you make almost no exercise at all, you get sweaty trying to put a tiny ball in a tiny hole, and worst of all: it takes forever.

That’s it, right? It’s the time we don’t have — or at least we don’t think we have. It’s the social pressure to know the latest thing, the trending #hashtag, the fresh baked meme. If we don’t have that information, we suddenly become Stone Age grandpas and grandmas of the Internet.

I’m lazy, so what? I’m not hurting anybody

Think again, and when you’re finished think a little more. Years ago an incident occurred where 2 twitter users posted fake rumors about an imminent attack to a school that resulted in panic among the citizens, some people hurt, and eventually the arrest of such users (who were freed afterwards, in case you were wondering).

Most recently, I noticed that a rumor stating that a website of an anti-government journalist had been brought down, was circulating on Facebook. The image being re-posted was big, red, alarmist: “show the government that you won’t allow this!” “Share this, let our voice be heard”. It took me three seconds to find out it was a hoax, a hoax that was only fueling already onset anti-government feelings.

Regardless of the potential legal implications, sharing false information can be very dangerous in many levels. For starters you can be promoting something against human health — like a miraculous cancer cure based on a poisonous Asian mushroom- , phishing or malware links, posts against a person’s or a company’s reputation, or simply perpetuating raw ignorance. Hey, you might be even hurting the Economy! Choose your pick.

It’s not my fault, it’s the Media’s

No, it’s yours. From the moment you decided that you didn’t have 5 minutes to read — at full or at all — that article and others akin to inquire, verify and compare the data and you shared it, it’s your responsibility.

Some information is put out there just to sell something, either a product or an idea, and other parties are interested in we taking the bait. This could be just marketing or evil manipulation.

The consequences

Remember my guilty confession? Well, not reading the instructions caused that assembling the fan took me half an hour instead of 5 minutes, skipping a movie scene made me lose an important clue in the plot, and most importantly: I didn’t experience the film as it was, with all its tense, slow cooked — and yeah a little bit boring — suspense.

So, how many hours are we losing trying to save a few minutes? How many apologies would we ask for later on? How many errata must be made? If the idea of making a fool of yourself –or your company- is not enough to think twice before clicking the share button, try to imagine the potential consequences your seemingly inoffensive actions would have on your environment. In most cases, it will take just a couple of minutes, I promise.

I’ve been a reckless re-poster, now how do I spot fake or tendentious posts?

Well, here are some tips:

  • If the post has a link, check the name of the website. If you see that, e.g., it reads abcneews.com instead of abcnews.com, better discard that info.
  • If the site is not fake, read the WHOLE article. Sometimes the writer or editor skewed the headline to make it more attractive, or the article itself starts in one way and concludes very far away from the premise.
  • Do some research. Check other sites or Google the information to find other sources for the data.
  • Remember how people say to trust your instincts? Don’t. At least, not at first. Instincts are biased and you need to stay objective, especially around “hot” posts.

In summary:

  • Don’t re-tweet anything you haven’t read and verified (I’m talking about sensitive stuff, please share funny jokes)
  • Cut yourself some slack and forgive yourself for your past mistakes

Off you go, I think you’re ready for a brand new sharing behavior.

P.S. Golf still bores me to death

@khaxan

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IT Manager, Writer. ~ Technology, Music, Films, Books and Coffee Addiction~ Spanish, English, French and German (Bisschen)

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