Home > blogging for Britain > The problem with Twitter part II: The return of the chain letter

The problem with Twitter part II: The return of the chain letter

“An NYU student on holiday in Mexico woke up in a bathtub full of ice.  The last thing he could remember was a stranger buying him a drink.  There was a note to call 911 taped to the mirror and on his lower back were two poorly stitched 6-inch wounds… This man was the victim of kidney thieves… Please forward this to everyone you know.”

Remember the days of cheesy chain emails that so many people blindly forwarded to everyone they knew and the all-office email before (usually) realising they’d fallen victim to a chain email?  Stolen kidneys was just one such hoax, but there were good luck charms, virus warnings, charity messages from dying kids, free clothes from GAP and petrol price fixing emails to name a few.

Following my article about people using Twitter to feel good about themselves, another thing has been bugging me – the fact that sane people are willing to spread rumours without first checking their validity.  It appears Twitter is the new scare monger as not a week goes by without some ridiculous rumour trending such as the death of Mick Jagger, Charlie Sheen, Justin Bieber, Russell Crow, etc. or a dire warning of some description.

I remember the rumour of a gunman shooting everyone on Oxford Street which caused a mass panic across Twitterland.  There was helpful advice to stay indoors and requests to retweet this to everyone, but no actual evidence on the news channels or the Oxford Street webcam. A colleague even contemplated sending an all agency email, before realising in time it was spam.

In that case it was people trying to be helpful, other times I suspect there is a bit of ‘firsting’ creeping in or maybe people just have nothing interesting to write about.

If popular enough, this “news” can even make the jump to offline news channels – Metro regularly has features on these misreports and I remember reading about Mick Hucknall’s untimely demise in an LA swimming pool in a South African tabloid, only to find out it was false.

So does Twitter encourage us to disengage our brains?  Not usually, but we shouldn’t forget that Twitter is still the internet so not everything will be true.

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Categories: blogging for Britain
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  1. April 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

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