Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. It’s true…don’t even believe everything written in this blog. Sure, I put things out there like truth, but don’t be fooled; sometimes I throw in a little extra to keep you reading.
When I refer to “the internet” I'm also talking about the email messages you receive from friends and family members. We all know at least one person who makes you hate opening anything they send because you just know you'd be better off skipping it entirely. The one who likes to forward everything in their inbox to the rest of the world? Yeah, that person. Sometimes I think these people have their mail automatically set up to do this since they are so prolific with their forwarded messages. Sometimes you receive a joke, sometimes you get a series of funny pictures and sometimes it’s false information, passed off as fact.
I had a coworker who liked to do this. Most of her messages involved prayers (which had to be passed on to 10 friends or else you’d be doomed to the depths of hell) but she also liked to send “true" stories that contained one too many coincidences and a neatly packaged conclusion. One day, when she sent me a story that wrapped up a little too cleanly, I decided to get a second opinion.
As expected, snopes confirmed my suspicions that the entire message about September 11th and the firefighter who perished after saving a pregnant woman in the World Trade Center was a lie (naturally, the imaginary baby that was born months later, was named after this heroic fictional firefighter). I didn’t have the heart to tell my coworker that the "true story" was indeed not true. We were just a few years removed and not far from the Pentagon and I wasn’t going to be the bad guy.
Yes, that’s usually how it goes, the one trying to offer the truth is the bad guy. Usually you get a response like, “Thanks, I didn’t know,” or “Oh, okay.” and even though the response is neutral, you just know the sender was seething as those words were typed. And if you thought you were doing a service to everyone by hitting “reply all,” then congratulations, you just succeeded in making the sender look like a dumb ass in front of his or her entire distro list.
Sometimes you have to weigh the message you’re sending against the reaction you’ll get. I'll forgive the harmless stuff(“The Statue of Liberty is black, y’all!”) or sappy crap, but if your message is alarmist in nature, I will call you on it.
Case in point—one of my friends sent a message about someone who had itchy breasts and upon visiting a doctor, discovered worms living in holes around the areola. And then, like any authentic message, there were pictures to prove it! Eee-yew, I thought as I clicked the attached photo. When I returned from the bathroom*, I re-read the story, analyzing it for truth. Usually tales like these involve some exotic location, as if something so horrendous would never happen locally. In this example, it was from the bra the person was wearing during a recent trip to South America. Ding-ding-ding! This was another job for snopes.
If you guessed that it was another untruth, good job. The people sending these things should know better. They’re usually well-meaning types who just didn't pause to long enough to question the original message (undoubtedly forwarded to them by some other well-intentioned soul). If you recognize that you might be one of those people, next time you get the urge to hit "forward" in your attempt to save the rest of us, ask yourself: Is this just a little too terrible (or too good to be true) to believe? If you have any doubt at all, check snopes (or press "delete"). In doing so, you have spared us from the gory photoshopped images of breasts riddled with worm holes. Thank you!
I sent the myth busting link to my friend (but I did not “Reply All”), and when she sent back an “Okay, thanks,” I could feel the chill. Minutes later, she replied to everyone else that had been burdened with the “Breast Holes” email message, explaining that it wasn’t true.
And then...I never heard from her again.*