Skip to main content

The Internet keeps making me a liar!

Yesterday night within one hour, I publicly said two things (or rather endorsed them) which were incorrect (or at least I didn't believe to be true.) I lied.

  • The first was my re-share of this post on Google+ - it seemed to imply something that as soon as I examined the facts a little more closely I decided wasn't true.
  • The second was a re-tweet of this tweet - which got one fairly important fact completely wrong.

I regretted both really quickly (within minutes.)

In both cases, I attempted to backtrack. commenting on the Google+ post and editing my annotations on the re-share. I undid my re-tweet as well, but it felt too late.

I mean, imagine doing this in the real world! Going around a crowded repeating something that was wrong, and a few minutes later mumbling "never mind" in the corner. By then a bunch of other people are telling your friends what you just said; some even believing it and jumping to their own wrong conclusions. Imagine how pissed they'll be (or what they'll think of you) when they find out they were spreading falsehoods! OK, enough with the over-dramatizations. :-)

Now: there are a few things happening here:
  • Speed (or rather immediacy) has never been as important in communication: Being the first to say something has always had its benefits (real and perceived), but its never been more important or harder since everyone and anyone can post/tweet, and our set of technologies make apparent who really got there first. 
  • We're becoming an endorsement culture: +1ing, linking and favorite-ing (I think I got all the endorsement verbs :-)) are used by people not just to express their relationship with what's been shared, but with the person sharing as well.
  • Our attention spans are at an all-time low and our propensity to share is at an all time high: Name 5 things you +1ed/favorited last week. I rest my case - and if you actually do remember, you didn't do enough for the rest of the week. :-)
As a result, we've exacerbated exponentially what has always been a problem with communication, and communication on the Internet. While we're generating a lot more signal, there's a lot more noise to deal with as well. So...
  • Bad information spreads quickly and often unchecked.
  • Social proof makes us even more likely to believe bad information, and there's pressure to amplify these signals (e.g. I should "Like" this because this person I think is awesome did) - so we spread the bad info too.
So remember kids. Its not just "Don't believe what you read on the Internet"; its now "Don't even believe what you said on the Internet."


Popular posts from this blog

Measure f-ing everything, and assume f-ing nothing!! - Or how mentoring ruined lives :-(

I've been really enjoying the Freakonomics podcast of late. This episode and the lesson we should take a away from it, was a stark reminder of one of the most important things we should be doing - but often don't - in building products or making any decisions: measuring the impact of absolutely everything we do, including the things that seem obviously good.

I recommend listening to the podcast if you have the time, but here's the summary. Stephen Dubner describes the Cambridge Sommerville Youth Study. The impact of social intervention programs in general is hard to measure and so they seldom are. This was the first attempt at measuring the impact over a long period of time.

It's a great story and there are a few good take-aways, but here's the main one: troubled or at-risk youth that received mentoring (good mentoring!) had worse life outcomes across every dimension than the kids that were left alone. Despite the recipients saying that the mentoring was incredibl…

Whimsy when I changed my profile picture...

I changed by profile picture at work.

Later in the day, two people on my team had changed their profile pictures to these.. :-)

It made my day!

I changed my profile pic again today. Let's see how fast anyone catches on this time. :-)

Yup - humans still lack humanity

Every once in a while, I'm reminded that humans can be completely lacking in humanity.

My wife had the following experience yesterday on her ride back home. She got on the train and found a seat. The train was unusually crowded and it looked a lot of people had to stand for a long ride. An elderly Asian gentleman carrying a few things in both hands, was looking for spot, started to complain smilingly about the train being so full and stood in the aisle at the back of the carriage some seats away from her.

She expected someone closer to gentleman in the aisle (lots of younger people on the train) to give him their seat.

No one did.

The train started, and it was clear the man was having a lot of trouble standing up. Then at the next stop there was actually an announcement saying the train was full so please give up your seats to people who needed them.

Still nobody moved.

My wife got up walked to the end of the train and asked the gentleman to go over to her seat. She still couldn&#…