The internet has become a limitless advance of space where individuals can write anything or be anyone. Information is not always valid, nor are the faces we look at. Virtually everything we see on the internet has the capacity to be doctored in some way. Essentially we could be hoaxed as many times a day as we dare to click our mouse’s button. Unfortunately, I have several stories involving internet hoaxes and the damage that they can cause in the lives of people who are unaware of them. One involves disinformation; the other involves dishonesty.
Four years ago, as blogs were reaching the height of their popularity it became common for individuals to take information on blogs as truth. Popular blogs would sometimes use this to their advantage by spreading lies to further their own personal agenda. These agendas could involve politics, morals, or personal ideas; regardless of the information, the hoax remained. The bloggers were perpetuating made up information as truth and readers were buying it with unfailing blindness.
In one such instance, I had a friend who read a blog almost to the point of religious repetition. She would quote passages of the bloggers words to me as if they were from the Bible itself. While the blogger did have some true nuggets of wisdom, by and large she appeared to sound like any other individual that was capable of relative common sense. Not being one to judge, I let my friend enjoy the block without mentioning how odd the obsession seemed. However, I was unable to stay silent when the blogger began writing about her opinion on scientific information.
I would have been able to maintain my silence over this particular blog if the blogger’s words had been written as an opinion. Unfortunately, she took her opinion and wrote it as fact. One blog post in particular concerned global warning. In short, she did not believe in global warming. Whether an individual believes in global warming or not is of no consequence to me. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. What I took issue with was that this blogger did not seem to believe in weather itself, passing severe weather conditions, which anybody could view for themselves if they took the time to look, as part of the liberal agenda. In one specific passage of her blog she accused the liberal government of doctoring satellite photos of weather patterns in an attempt to scare us into thinking that the global weather changes were worse than they really were. For proof she included a photo of a satellite photo, insisting that the color blue, which normally stands for harshly cold temperatures, really stood for perfectly mild conditions. We were being lied to, and the cold snap that had recently killed tens of people on the Canadian border that year was perpetuated by the media at the government’s urging. This blogger was insisting, then, that her readers sign a petition that she would send to the President, demanding that the real satellite images be released, along with the correct weather reports.
This smelled like a hoax for several reasons. For example, she had already claimed that the photo she had included was the real satellite photo, but that the government was misleading us on the color coordination. She was also insisting that the deaths, which were documented, did not exist. To think that the government has time to make up the weather, but also doctor the deaths of random individuals in towns most of the country has never heard of is preposterous. Despite this, my friend believed the blog and, even now, insists global warming is not real and the weather is often “made up.”
Another, far more unfortunate hoax” was experienced by a friend of mine on an internet dating site. He had recently experienced a break-up and was ready to begin meeting new people. He had just taken a new job and, due to several other responsibilities, was limited on time to meet somebody the old-fashioned way. As such, he decided that online dating might be a sufficient way to get back into the dating pool.
For several weeks he did not have any luck. Many of the women were not looking for anything serious or they were looking for something too serious. Finally, though, my friend came upon the profile of a very pretty girl who lived two towns away. After having a relatively long string of bad luck, the distance did not seem so bad and he messaged her. As it turned out, she and my friend ended up having a lot in common. He was thrilled that she was into sports, video games, craft beer, and shared his taste in movies. She was goal-oriented, and appeared to have a good head on her shoulders, not to mention she was pretty and in shape.
She seemed too good to be true. Those are the words that my friend would say when she would text or when he would get off of the phone with her. Looking back it is hard to understand why none of us realized that she was too good to be true. After all, she did have six months’ worth of excuses that kept them from meeting. This always bothered me because she was only forty-five minutes away. Surely she could clear one afternoon for a cup of coffee or an early dinner just to meet my friend since it was very clear, even to his friends, that they had a strong connection. I began to feel so sorry for my friend because he was getting so despondent over not meeting her. He became convinced that she was his soul mate and that he must get to her, but she continued to come up with excuses as to why she could not meet face-to-face yet.
Finally my friends and I managed to talk a little bit of sense into my friend. At the time we just assumed that she was nervous. Sometimes people get nervous when big things are about to happen in their lives, and love is very important to people. She and my friend had a strong connection; they connected so well sometimes it scared the rest of us. We convinced my friend to drive to her and surprise her. She had given him her address a few months before when he sent her flowers on her birthday; we thought perhaps if he just showed up in a romantic display of affection that this woman’s apprehension would melt away and our friend would finally be able to begin his happy ending with this wonderful woman. How wrong we were.
He drove the forty-five minutes only to end up at the woman’s mother’s house. Confused he asked where she lived. Her mother told him she was attending college out of state, currently several hundred miles away from us, to be exact. He was floored. The woman’s mother did not ask many questions but, seeing the troubled look on my friend’s face, invited him in for a glass of water before he left. He accepted and on the way saw a picture of her family: the woman who had answered the door (the mother), and older man (the father), and younger man who looked like the older man (the brother), and the woman’s daughter who, frankly, looked nothing like her online profile photos. She was shorter, bigger, and far paler than her profile had led my friend to believe. He had been, as the popular term now phrases it, “catfished.” They never spoke again.
These two stories show how easy it is to lie on the internet. Hoaxes are everywhere. They do not only take form on blogs or internet dating profiles. They can be on fake new sites as well, which look far more credible. They can appear on social networks or random web pages. They can be literally anywhere because everybody has access to the web and nobody makes you tell the truth. It is important to exercise caution and common sense when using the internet. Not everything you read, or see, is as it seems.