Social media awareness is more important than ever

Too good to be true? You're probably right

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We live in an exciting time of new technological advancements and opportunities, and we can access more information and make more connections all around the world than ever before. We must also always remember, especially as students, to approach the gigantic amount of content we are exposed to on the daily with a healthy dose of skepticism.

According to Worldstream.com and the entertainment website Variety.com, 95 million posts are made on Instagram and 3 billion snapchats are sent every day. The content ranges from cute pictures of puppies to political commentary, and the more we are overwhelmed with social media, the easier it is for us to take each post as a concrete fact.

Recently, another new social media trend has emerged: lack of context. A story that becomes viral often does so due to a specific, typically polarizing, aspect, but in order to capitalize on these notable moments the rest of the picture may be cut out.

For example, earlier this year a story went viral about a young couple raising money to take care of a homeless man in New Jersey. Katelyn McClure and Mark D’Amico started a GoFundMe page for a homeless veteran last Thanksgiving, ultimately raising about $400,000. Their story spread across the country like wildfire and donations from complete strangers skyrocketed.

Soon after, however, the homeless man sued McClure and D’Amico, claiming he had never received the money. In response, the couple claimed that withholding the cash was the only way to end his drug addiction.

As the story gained traction on the internet and reached millions of people on social media, the audience automatically accepted every twist and turn as objective fact. When the whole truth finally emerged, the story was exposed as nothing more than a calculated grab for sympathy money. All three parties admitted that they made up the heartwarming story, knowing the whole time that no one would ever question them. And they were right.

A good way to approach every post on social media is to think of it like a reality TV show. While watching “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” you know that someone sat in a cutting room for hours mixing and matching every clip of footage to produce the most dramatic conversations possible. A television producer’s goal is to make eating a salad look groundbreaking.

So when you see stories on Instagram or Snapchat that seem a little too good, a little too perfect, or a little too crazy to be true, it’s probably a safe bet to assume that someone has manipulated that post, or even totally made it up, just to get likes, views or money.

Social media can be a powerful influencer, especially for teens and young adults. A lot of businesses and even just manipulative people are aware of this power, and they want to take advantage of you. From fake personal accounts to fabricated posts, the Fyre Festival debacle to Catfishing, it’s important to remember that not everything and everyone on social media is authentic.