Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sharing is Caring

My grandparents had 13 children, but of those children a pair of twins died when they were still babies. 11 children was quite a crowd to reckon with even during my grandparents' era. So you can imagine the number of cousins that I have right now. In fact, I'm embarrassed to confess that I don't even know how many cousins I have; all I can say for certain is that there are many! What's more, if I were to walk the street and one of my cousins is in the crowd, I doubt that I would be able to single him out.

We are not all living in KK, so we rarely meet each other, except for only some of us. However, we have a family chat group on Whatsapp, although not all of my cousins are in that group. Every now and then we'd share information through that chat, such as when So-and-So is getting married, or So-and-So is sick and has been hospitalized. My brother, Dennis, is also in that chat group, and he is one of the most active guy—if not the most active one in posting stuff.

Dennis is quite a gullible chap, you see, and he has tons of what I'd call "rubbish" to share, and almost every morning he starts his routine by dumping at least 10 or 20 of the so-called rubbish in the chat group. They may range from mere jokes (which is perhaps not too bad), to "scientific studies" about how eating chicken wings can cause cancer, to unverified information about people, that So-and-So has done this and that. I can only assume that he receives all these things from other people, which he'd promptly forward to our chat group. And I'd be there to remind him not to be gullible; that there is a real need to do background checks on the truth of the stuff he's sharing with other people. But as I said, he's gullible by nature, and very easily fall prey to this sort of things. So despite my frequent reminders, he is still being gullible, although this recently, I'm beginning to see a little improvement. There is hope after all.

Then this morning, I read with interest the story of an Indian man with a Chinese name in The Star. He is a victim of a lie that someone told to someone, which was subsequently shared, and has since gone viral on social media.

The truth is that there are many, many gullible people like Dennis out there. They very easily fall prey to rumours. Whenever they receive any news or statements, even from unreliable sources, there is almost like a reflex reaction to quickly forward or share with friends without checking the truth or accuracy of the things that they're sharing. News that we find on the net can come from many places. They can come from genuine scientific research and reliable sources. But they can also come from that weirdo having nothing better to do with his useless life, composing the rubbish from the basement of his parents' house. 

The gullible people who fall prey to the weirdos can't tell the difference between the genuine articles and hoaxes. When questioned, I've noticed that one of the most popular justifications is that "Sharing is Caring". That seems like a foolproof defense. 

That's human nature—when they see something only from their own point of view, they tend to think that it's OK to share information with other people, whether that information is true or not. They do that even if they are not fully convinced that that information is genuine. But they share that information anyway, just to warn others of the possibility that it may be true. "Just as a precaution," they'd say. It's not until they themselves become the subjects of malicious lies that can harm their reputation that they'd believe spreading lies is harmful. It's only harmful if they feel the pain, but not when other people feel the pain.