Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Well I know I said this next blog would be back to being all about me, but I've been struck down by the dreaded lurgy and I've been sick in bed for several days. It's just a cold but it's a nasty one and I'm feeling extremely blah. So I'm not going to bore you all with a list of my symptoms because who wants to hear someone else's symptoms - we all just want to tell everyone about our own ;)

Since I've been confined to bed and the house and my head has been so stuffed with virus that it has muffled my words, I have been spending far too much time surfing Facebook and the web. Also because I'm sick and therefore have no patience at all I have been becoming quite frustrated with things I see, and so this is why this blog today. I'm venting people, and I know I said just last time we all need tolerance and we do - but we all also need to think!

This world we live in is amazing in so many ways, the wonders of nature that we all take for granted, the wonders of the human spirit that so often go unnoticed. Things that are amazing become common place when they are seen all the time. You could live close to the pyramids and because you see them every day they cease to become a marvel of engineering and ego and become instead just a large pile of rocks. You could live in a beautiful city full of fascinating architecture and fail to see it because it's there in front of you all the time.

Likewise things that are wrong will be overlooked if they are constantly visible, they fade, become part of the fabric of everyday life. Now I could go on a tangent about some of the truly horrific living conditions faced by so many citizens of this planet and by the casual acts of cruelty committed everywhere every day. But this blog is not about that. I will probably not write a blog ever about that because it is so shocking and horrendous and it makes me sick to think of it. Plus there are many many writers far better and more qualified than me to write such stories.

No, this blog is about stories circulated on social media that go viral - and are completely inaccurate. Sometimes they are just bits of foolishness and sometimes they feed paranoia. As a brief example of what I am talking about there is currently a story circulating about toothpaste tubes, you may perhaps have seen it:

The accompanying blurb reads like this: 
NEVER even knew about this!! PLEASE SHARE IT
Have you ever noticed that there is a distinct color at the bottom of each toothpaste pack ?
Do you know the meaning of the colors ?
Green : Natural.
Blue : Natural + Medicine.
Red : Natural + Chemical composition.
Black : Pure Chemical.

It's plausible isn't it? It must be, I've seen it dozens of times from various sources. It's also completely untrue as the quickest Google search showed me. This is actually what those colours mean:

Looks pretty convincing, doesn’t it? Well, it’s an urban legend. Here’s the truth about those stripes:
The story on the meaning of the stripes is this: They have nothing what-so-ever to do with anything that would even vaguely interest a consumer. Long story short, it only relates to packaging and the stripes can be read by a scanner.
The urban legend grew out of someone having way to much time on their hands and probably loves throwing a scare into people.
Here’s a great way to find out what really is the make-up of your toothpaste: READ THE INGREDIENTS ON THE SIDE OF THE PACKAGE!
The colours are different simply because different sensors are used in different packaging companies and they are there only so the sensors can read where to fold or to cut the packaging. It's the work of seconds to do the initial research on Google, there are dozens of web sites devoted to uncovering urban myths like this one. It is not very hard either to undertake further research and check things like how sensors work in packaging factories to see that this is in fact the correct version of the story.
And that's why I say THINK! We live in a world where there is unparalleled access to information. I adore Google, I use it all the time. I was that child that was always asking questions, always wanting to know and now I can look up anything and find the answer. But we also live in a world with unparalleled access to misinformation. We need to be in control, we need to question everything, think about it and do the research. Don't believe anything you see or read on any form of media. Not even the news media. News corporations are just that - corporations, often global corporations and the information they give may not necessarily be completely accurate.
Remember, we all have our own unique view of the world based on our environment and experiences. The same goes for all reporters, writers and dispensers of the news and other items of interest. Don't assume, don't believe it is truth, truth is relevant to the position of the reporter. And don't ever assume just because a picture and the accompanying blurb is plausible and also is something you would like to believe, that it is actually true. Social media is rife with such misinformation. 
And there is my point for this blog. There is so much of this misinformation, so much so that we see things, say surely that isn't true and move onto the next thing. Or we see it and become shocked and share it with others and perpetuate an urban myth. But because there is so much of it, it becomes familiar and once familiar no longer something to comment on. I think this is very wrong. It is encouraging us all to stop thinking, to accept all that we read as truth. And as I said, the news should not be considered to be completely accurate, the side shown may not and often is not the whole story. 
By accepting and believing the stories on social media which are so often so completely wrong, I wonder if it makes us all more likely to accept stories told on news media. We should not, any story that resonates within should be researched, all sides to the same story should be found and read, because the truth, as much as can be found, will be somewhere between the two. We all know this, we all know stories where we are privy to both sides and someone else hears only one side. We say the story was one-sided and it means just that, only one side was told but there are always two sides to a story. In this day and age of easy access to a global network of information it is the responsibility of us all to ensure that we are as well informed, and as accurately informed as possible. 
So in conclusion, when you see something, hear something, read something, before you go rushing off to share it with the world stop! think! research! Then, if it is accurate, go for it!!

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