The Internet as a rumor mill is a potentially dangerous thing, particularly given the speed and permanence of once information is shared online. It is even more potentially troublesome when information is false; posting retractions, opposing viewpoints, even evidence that something is incorrect won’t necessarily reach all of the people who were exposed to the original information. Furthermore, not everyone has the appropriate level of media literacy to critically examine all of the messages they encounter. Case in point in the recent blogosphere: the global bacon shortage. I first saw it when a friend of mine on Facebook mentioned it in a post, with a link to the story that incited the pork panic.
I briefly skimmed the first few lines, then responded to my friend in a semi-joking fashion that I’d better start eating more bacon this year while I have the chance. A mutual friend then shared a link to a story challenging the story, and identifying the cause of and motivation behind the inciting story. Certainly relieved that there wasn’t really going to be a bacon shortage, my own half-hearted acceptance of the Facebook share certainly made me think. The credibility, truth and likelihood of media messages should be questioned, particularly when we’re getting our news from postings made by our Facebook friends. While these questions certainly lie in the backs of our minds, we have grown so accustomed to using the Internet for information gathering that it would be irresponsible and short-sighted of us not to question said information.
Had it been a more serious story, I likely would have taken the time to read the original story in its entirety, then browse the Internet for confirmation. In a world where anyone can take part in the media dialogue, what is our responsibility as individuals to verify the accuracy or merit of the stories and information that we share online?