“Post dis on 10 statuses or else a ghost called Ella will come in the night with a knife and stand by your bed.”
If you’re over the age of around 14, you’ll dismiss these comments, ridicule them or even post a meme underneath, depicting some cartoon pulling a sarcastic facial expression. If you’re still around the age when you genuinely believe that a boy named Thomas who was killed by his drunken father will hide in your shower, then you will probably just have finished posting the above example on twenty of your friend’s posts (ten more than required, just to be on the safe side). Before anyone comes along and tries to say “I was NEVER that gullible”, we should stop you. Yes, yes you were once that gullible. We have all posted or forwarded an email that we believed was sent from beyond the grave.
Now we don’t want to tar everyone with the same brush. Not ALL 11 year olds post these silly comments, but the majority of those guilty tend to be aged thirteen and below. Once you hit puberty, you’ve usually seen enough gravestones to realise that none of them say “cause of death: Ella the Ghost from MSN”. You take a risk and don’t repost one ghost story, and then when you discover that nothing happened as a consequence of this, you never repost another one. What happens is you start to scorn the children that DO still fall for the whole “a girl was pushed down a drain by bullies” thing, and you mock them mercilessly, forgetting that you once believed that the fantasy victim would stab you in your sleep. It’s all part of the human life cycle.
Another thing that people fall for online (mostly adults this time), are things like “this dog cries on its owner’s grave” or “this man and this elephant are best friends”. Some may be true, but most of these pictures are staged. We all know a dog that lies down at its owner’s command. This dog would happily lie down on some stranger’s grave if it were told to. You should always get more evidence for an event than some ridiculous picture posted on a page on Facebook that you liked when you were 12.
But just in case you do still believe in the validity of a chain letter in your inbox, here are some tips to help you stay sceptical on the internet:
1- Google search anything that you care enough to want to know about. If you see a phone charger made from two toothpicks and a watermelon shell, search on a creditable website (NOT 9gag, reddit etc.) before you break your iPhone.
2- Remember that people LIE. Whether they do it as a gullibility test or just want loads of shares on their pictures, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you don’t make a fool of yourself telling someone that bananas turn your heart yellow just because you haven’t checked it on Google.
3- Use your common sense! Obviously it is untrue that an Indian woman gave birth to 11 babies on the 11/11/11. That could be 5 stone worth of babies!
4- People who make these images could have just misread. Carrying on with the 11 babies example, a person may have saw this picture in an article:
It would be so easy to make a mistake and say that one woman had all these babies on 11/11/11. The reality is, that these babies were all born on that date, but all to different mothers in one hospital in India.
5- Don’t be afraid to disbelieve something. Even if your most reliable friend says “hey, I saw on Facebook that Starbucks give you a discount if you bring your bible in. Isn’t that amazing?” you should never be scared to say “Really? You actually believe that?”