Consider this a Public Service Announcement.
Parents are (naturally) always looking out for their children, and very often try to be good citizens that spread useful information on to others. (To a certain degree, isn’t that what many parents are doing with their blogs, sharing their experiences, to not only entertain, but to potentially inform others from their experiences).
However, in this age of Instant Information, far too many people are far too quick to help disseminate mis-information (unintentially of course) in the name of warning others.
Clues to mis-information that winds up in your e-mail inbox.
1. Lack of details – In order for these mis-informations to last as long as possible, and not be proven false, they usually lack details. Things like, “in the mid-west” or “a suburban household” rather than “in Chicago” (or others narrowed down location).
2. Lack of real people – A story that is actually run in a newspaper, or actually sent from “the friend” of a supposed victim (there is almost always a victim), would not receive an e-mail saying “my dog died because my child used a Swiffer.” Think about if you wrote this letter to your friend warning him/her about the horrors that have beseiged your home. You would tell your friend, “Timmy washed the floor with a Swiffer Wetjet, and now Lassie is dead.” Again, the, “I know a guy” helps perpetuate the myth by omitting details that would help somebody verify (or more likely debunk) the account.
3. Seemingly odd “facts” – Yes, it is true that there are some facts that are odd when you first hear about them, which I guess is what makes these slip by as true so easily. But when someething sounds overly technical, and yet implausable. It is worth thinking twice about it. Using my Swiffer example again, the claim was “the product is one molecule different from Anti-Freeze.” Ummm… yeah. Because when I want to get a tough stain off the floor, I consider Anti-Freeze as a source.
What to do, when confronted with such an e-mail.
1. If it has more than two or three FW: in the subject. Trash it. Most people have probably already seen it.
2. Unsure about the veracity? Take a momment to check out one of the fact checking places such as Snopes.com which have a great database of these types of Urban Legends and Myths.
3. Think before your hit that send button. When you are forwarding an e-mail such as this, it is essentially your reputation that you are now putting behind that e-mail. If you are unwilling to bet your personal reputation on the story or source. Then just move on.
On behalf of everybody with an overloaded Inbox full of junk like this, I thank you for your support.