“They can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true” Or so says the pretty girl in an old State Farm commercial. It is a perception that many of us hold. Not that all information on the internet is true but that someone, somewhere actually does think that, even though I doubt any of us have actually met someone that would make such an absurd claim.
Still the perception that certain people, particularly younger people, believe everything they read on “the internet” still exists. The concept itself is insulting, implying that because a good percentage of the information “sources” on the internet are wrong, the entire internet is suspect. The truth, which should be obvious to anyone who has spent anytime on the internet, is that sources can range from the extremely reliable to the obviously false, and everything inbetween.
More damning to the stereotype that young people can’t differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources, is a new study coming out of Michigan State University that seems to indicate that young adults are better than expected at not allowing false information cloud their memories.
It has been well documented that by providing people with false information right after an event can affect their memories and make them believe things that didn’t happen did happen. The phenomenon is commonly referred to as false memories. The participants of the study, all undergrads at MSU, with an average age of 19, were shown pictures depicting a carjacking. After, participants were given information, much of it false, either through a Twitter-like News Feed or in a traditional news website format.
The results were probably only surprising to people who think those “damn kids” depend on their “TweeterFace” for their news, but participants of the study who were fed false information through the Twitter-like feed were less likely to regurgitate that information as fact later. The researchers theorize that the participants are naturally distrustful of social media as a source of news.
No, not everything on the internet is true, but that doesn’t mean anyone believes it is.