Nathan's column: Sorting the real from the fakeSocial media like Facebook and Twitter have become an important part of everyday life for many people. They allow us to connect with friends, to keep up with family and to share photos and videos of cute animals with a speed and volume never before possible.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Social media like Facebook and Twitter have become an important part of everyday life for many people. They allow us to connect with friends, to keep up with family and to share photos and videos of cute animals with a speed and volume never before possible.
It’s during times like this, though, as an entire nation strains for any news of what is happening on the East Coast, that these services take on a new kind of life, becoming almost a living, breathing conduit pumping out the latest reports and photos almost faster than we can keep up.
Also, it allows people to come up with clever names for the storms. Why just refer to this as Hurricane Sandy, after all, if you can call it the Frankenstorm. Or Super Storm Sandy. Or Professor Rainypants.
This constant flow of information can be extremely valuable, as long as you can trust the information you’re getting. Plenty of news organizations are using Twitter and Facebook as a kind of first step in the reporting process, getting bits and pieces of information out to followers and fans as soon as they get it. But then there are others. People who are using the storm as an excuse to mess with people who are so hungry for the latest amazing news they’ll believe just about anything.
On Monday, well before the storm had run its course, debunking fake photos has become a nearly full-time job for some of the few reporters who hadn’t actually been forced to throw on a poncho and stand directly in the storm’s path. The photo of a shark swimming through the streets of a New Jersey city? Totally fake. Ominous clouds looming over the New York City skyline? Real, but, um, not from this storm. Giant waves crashing against the Statue of Liberty? Yeah, those are from the movie The Day After Tomorrow.
On the bright side, the number of people who have seen at least part of The Day After Tomorrow just, like, quadrupled.
In any case, the lesson here seems to be simple: Know your source. Actual news organizations are probably trustworthy. The person retweeted by someone you don’t actually remember following might not be.
We at the Independent want to do our part to keep things straight, too. So, as a service to our readers we offer this brief guide to spotting real storm photos.
A photo of water flooding into a Hoboken PATH station could very well be real. There is at least one out there. But the photo of someone driving a James Bond submarine car through the tunnel is almost definitely fake.
A photo of a New York City building that lost one of its walls, exposing the interiors of its apartments, is real. But if you find Waldo looking out from one of the bedrooms, it might not be entirely genuine.
Photos of flooding in the streets of Red Hook, Brooklyn are real. Photos of streets flooded with Red Hook beer are not, no matter how much we want them to be.
The photo that has popped up here and there of a giant cat head looming over New York City? You can probably figure that one out on your own. But a photo of Godzilla coming ashore in Atlantic City? That’s definitely real.