Owen Wilson was recently one of many big-name celebrities subjected to false death rumors via the iInternet, specifically in the arena of social networking sites. In fact, a lot of us hear our “news” this way these days; friends status updates inform us, or shared links send us to stories which are supposedly true, etc. These are not the most reliable sources of celebrity news or any other news, yet the use of social networking causes such things to spread like wildfire. Morgan Freeman, Charlie Sheen, Adam Sandler, and Aretha Franklin were among those whose “deaths” were thus circulated.
Amy Baack, who is a senior majoring in cinema-television production, wrote an interesting piece on this very topic and indicates that this problem is not due to our genuine interest in celebrities’ welfare, but a means for people to feel powerful when they are able to swiftly distribute rumors, much in the same way paparazzi chase celebrities. More than this, what it seems to imply on our end– the gullible distributors of the lies– is that this is all symptomatic of how people today are receiving our news. Most of us would agree on any given day that you can’t trust something just because you read it on the Internet, yet because we heard it from our Facebook friend, it’s somehow lent credibility.
What these fake death blurbs, then, seem to indicate about our technology-driven society is that we are ones for convenience and have used technology to take the place of actually thinking for ourselves. Out of laziness, everything at the push of a button and accessible in an instant, we have grown accustomed to just accepting things as-is because we simply can’t be bothered with fact-checking or questioning reality as it is presented to us. Much like some of our favorite sci-fi movies, we are entering an age of human indolence in which, essentially, the machines have taken over.
That said, how are we supposed to discern reality from fiction? How do we “awake from the Matrix,” so to speak? First of all, dust off that brain and begin to ask questions. Then, realize that all celebrity news should be at first taken with a grain of salt. Tabloids have existed for a long time and this is no different. Lastly, do some double-checking and research yourself before you circulate a story. A simple iIternet search can turn up quite a lot, and reliable news sources (not blogs or celeb gossip web rags) will often be the first to be able to prove or verify that what you heard is accurate.
Sadly, this sort of independent journalism on your part should be extended beyond celebrity gossip and into all forms of news you hear these days. One hot resource people use in trying to spot the fake news stories is Snopes. Here you can find (or enter) all kinds of hoaxes that have been spread, and what the verdict is in regard to its truth or falsehood. It is not, however, the end-all, and if you are finding some hot, fresh celebrity gossip, the truth may not have yet been entered into this site. The lesson here ultimately is really that there is no substitute for your own critical thought, ability and willingness to research information before you help tell the world about it as “fact.”
Owen Wilson Victim of Latest Death Hoax, Gossip Cop
Amy Baack, World wide web of lies traps celebs, Daily Trojan