February 28, 2013

On Rumors, Lies, and Infographics

Does this make sense to you?
The statistics are made up but I put them in a graphic to make a point: Graphs give credence to information even if it's not true! There is so much misinformation on the internet, especially on social media, and it irks me.

But I should probably stop correcting people who pass around internet rumors. It wastes my time and sounds snarky. Still, it's uncomfortable for me to just let lies fly around. What do you do?

I hereby resolve to be less sarcastic and more patient. But first please allow me to post some advice.
  1. Don't automatically believe charts and other graphics. Anyone can make one!
  2. Before you pass on a hot story, do a little fact checking. At least look up the original story instead of relying on someone's opinion. And check Snopes or look up the topic on Wikipedia — it's not guaranteed accurate but it often provides good background information. Or search out a key phrase and the word scam.
  3. Consider the source. What are the qualifications of the writer? If none are given, be very skeptical.
  4. And keep in mind: Just because something backs up your philosophy doesn't make it true.
From now on I'll try to control my impulse to get self-righteous when I see internet lies. It's easy to hurt someone's feelings and we've all been fooled by something we read. There must be a polite way to handle this.


  1. I get annoyed by those kinds of posts too, but I usually just ignore them. Like you said, we've all been fooled by something we've read.

  2. that's why i stick to photos, mostly. i don't do politics, religion or current events. for one, i don't feel i'm qualified to offer opinions worth reading. as for passing on tips, facts, etc., i read those posts for entertainment value, if anything. :)

  3. I'm not sure there is a kind way to point out misleading information, but it can get to be very frustrating. This post reminds me that when I taught Probability & Statistics one of the books I used was "How To Lie With Statistics".

  4. I just like to move on. Don't let it get to you.

  5. I always form my own opinion... no matter what I read.
    Just like with my blog... what works for me, usually doesn't work for you and you know to check things out before you even think of sticking something in your mouth that I would or could eat.

    To me, you are one smart lady. Don't beat yourself up over other peoples posts.

  6. AMEN! I once had a heated argument with a friend who was repeating an absurd conspiracy theory relating to 9/11. I asked him what he was basing his opinion on, and he said: "It's documented on the internet." I walked away without another word.

  7. Thanks for the comments. It's good to know how others deal with this.


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