Teen Kills Younger Brother Because He Thought He Deleted His Pokémon.  This is a hoax. The phenomenon of Pokémon Go this week has unleashed a multitude of stories, many with no foundation in reality. Recent examples of non-factual facts are a hoax and a meme.

  • Posting a legal notice on your Facebook wall will protect you from having all your Facebook posts made public. This hoax has been circulating since 2014 and proposes a solution to a non-existent problem.
  • Areas that voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 ‘Brexit’ vote were the same areas affected by Mad Cow Disease in 1992. This is a meme, a satirical graphic and is not true.

Non-factual facts taken as truths spread fear, uncertainty and doubt. They continue because they fit a narrative. If there is a conversation about Pokémon Go, the death and crime fit into a great story line of the Pokémon Apocalypse. Other hoaxes, like Facebook privacy, nudge at concerns. Well meaning, good hearted, best intentioned people become unknowing carriers of memes hoaxes and untruths. It’s worthwhile to do a little checking before posting on Facebook or tweeting.  Use caution, there are dubious sites that post a mixture of real stories and hoaxes; these sites are monetized by clicks, so you will see those attention grabbing headlines that are begging you to click. But, those appealing headlines may or may not be true.

In the workplace, the impact of memes, hoaxes and rumors can be more damaging. People repeat what others have said and make decisions, ignoring facts. At work, there is not a “Google.” You have to ask, “Who is “they’?” Get the names of the source. When I talk to the “source,” I often find they have been misquoted or taken out of context. Sadly, many times, the misconceptions stay out there because, like the internet hoaxes, the idea has spread and gone viral. People stop putting the “I heard” in front of rumors and they morph into fact.  A rumor unencumbered by actual facts and is not a solid foundation for business decisions.

It is so much easier to relay the interesting things, exciting stories and tantalizing anecdotes without a fact check. Besides, is there really any harm done? Think about it. If there is something that is about to change your behavior, or you’re suggesting that other people modify their behavior, it’s worth doing a little fact checking. Amid the confusion, is it possible for the truth to get shares, likes and reposts? I hope so.