How to avoid feeling like a fool
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
It seems impossible to go on Facebook these days without seeing ad after ad scroll by in your News Feed. In addition to targeted Google ads in the sidebar (single dad dating site? Yes please!) and sponsored posts for things Facebook thinks you might be into (why yes Facebook, I am all about flavoured peanut butter), I’ve noticed a different type of social advertising: friends or family members who can’t help but advertise their lack of Internet savvy by perpetuating idiotic scams.
The following list contains the five worst offenders and tips to identify them.
Say it with me: the Internet doesn’t want to give you anything for free. If it sounds too good to be true, it often is. When iPads first came out, I received countless requests to join pages to potentially “win” one. The truth of these scams is that they take your information by prompting you to do survey-after-survey and then spam everyone on your contact list. Oh, and I hate to break it to you, but that guy who won the lottery and is going to share his winnings with everyone who reposts his photo? Yeah, that’s fake too.
Note: not all prize giveaways are scams, like The Other Press’ current tablet give away on our Facebook page (check it out!). A great way to verify if a give away is legit or not is to check if it’s affiliated with a legitimate company or organization.
There are some people out there who want you to think the world is a dangerous place where villains roam the streets filling dog treats with nails and feeding them to unsuspecting fuzzy friends. Those are the same types of folks who warned you about razorblades in apples on Halloween, and they’re the same people on Facebook that spread fearful misinformation that well-meaning people pass along. This is dangerous because it creates a culture of fear where there really isn’t one. Remember that a photograph is usually not good proof that something is happening, and before you share one of these Facebook “warnings,” try running it through Google, snopes.com (a debunking myths site), or Hoax-Slayer.com.
“Who’s viewing my profile?”
This hoax is particularly devious, because it appeals to our vanity; who doesn’t want to see who is checking out your profile? The propagators of the hoax tell you to install an app that will show you who’s creeping on you, but the app is a worm that spams your friends and steals your information. It’s a sneaky move which, if it were to actually exist, would defeat the whole purpose of Facebook. If you knew that your ex could tell whenever you compulsively checked their timeline, you would probably do it a lot less, which would be bad news for Facebook since their economy runs on spurned romance. There is seriously no excuse for getting caught up in this scam.
“Check out this gross/weird/slutty video!”
Hey, look, a video of a totally slutty girl doing something insane and weird in a bathroom! Oh, look, here’s a video of a guy with a spider egg growing in his elbow! Yuck. Even if these were actual videos and not just scams to get you to fill out surveys, give away your info, and spam your friends, who wants to see that? Not me, so please stop getting fooled by these. Hint: a real video will be hosted by a website like Vimeo or YouTube.
“This could help the world!”
Remember in 2012 when America caught Joseph Kony and freed thousands of child soldiers in Uganda? Yeah, I don’t either, because despite a massive viral campaign propagated by dubious do-gooders, it didn’t happen. While Facebook can be a great tool to share pet political projects, make sure that you’re not engaging in slacktivism. Sharing an image saying that lupus is awful, or changing your status to the colour of your bra to bring awareness to breast cancer, are actions that while not actively nefarious, don’t necessarily help. It’s just annoying. Share causes that are more personal to you, like a rally you’re going to or a club you’re involved in. Action is better than awareness.
Don’t worry; if you’re the kind of person that gets duped by these common hoaxes, it’s not because you’re a bad person. Quite the opposite: you’re probably too good for the Internet, and lack a certain evil cynicism that makes trickery easy to sniff out. Just make sure to stay on your toes, or you’ll soon be telling your entire social network just how naïve you are.