Before You Share It, Google It

Imagine that Person A has a sandwich.

He says to me, “Damn, this sandwich is delicious. Best sandwich I have ever eaten.” He describes its ingredients in detail: a bounty of meats and cheese and rare mustards, mm-mm-mm.  Then he says, “We should all share this sandwich.” And you think, dang, that’s very nice of him.

So, you take a quarter of the sandwich for yourself and then you pass the rest along. Maybe you’re hungry, so you take a bite. Or maybe you decide to wait for later and let someone else eat it.

If only you have peeled back the bread and looked inside because it’s just — I mean, it’s just full of scat. Turtle turdlets and otter dung and the sloppy mess from an irritable gopher.

Don’t worry, nobody really fed you a shit-filled sammy.

But also, definitely worry, because the truth is much worse.

Truth is, the internet’s informational sharing mechanism is pretty much that. It’s a lot of people passing shit sandwiches around, ignorant of or pretending they’re not actually shit sandwiches.

Given the horror show present in places around the globe recently — Beirut, Paris, and so forth — the informational sharing mechanism has been like ordure fertilizing a garden of only ordure. During times of crisis and concern, the misinformation shared often seems to spike sharply for reasons both sinister and foolish. Some folks want to actively share propaganda, and other people who spread the propaganda around because it sounds awfully good and awfully true and so surely it’s not propaganda at all (spoiler warning: it is). The most sinister of propaganda is the stuff that doesn’t read like propaganda at all. It sounds sensible. It comes from smart-sounding folks. Maybe it even comes from a primary major media source. Or! Maybe it comes from a friend. And we trust friends. Above all others. The circle of trust amongst people can be tighter and stronger than any other bond, and we like to think it keeps out bad ideas but sometimes it does the opposite — it traps the bad stuff within where we all huff it like glue.

This is easily solved, at least on the Internet.

It’s called “just fucking Google it.”

You know the paranoid phrase IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING?

Add a new one to your panoply of phrases:


Because usually, the order of operations goes like this:

a) see a thing

b) maybe read it all the way through or maybe just enjoy the insightful headline


Here, I would add a mere extra step:

a) see a thing

b) maybe read it all the way through or maybe just enjoy the insightful headline


d) determine whether or not you should share this thing or not

The impetus behind me asking for a slight shift in your Internet information-sharing habits is this: on Facebook, that most fertile breeding ground of dum-dummery, someone I was “friends” (air quotes are key) with shared a post from some ministry that was also so “patriotic” I’m pretty sure the writer ejaculates every time he sees an American flag. This post was all about how HEY GUESS WHAT JAPAN NEVER HAD ANY MUSLIM TERROR ATTACKS BECAUSE JAPAN KEEPS THEM MUSLIMS OUT, and then it goes on — sounding very factual and intellectual and actually not at all like my frothy caps-lock tone suggests! — to lay out its case with facts and details. Japan doesn’t allow Muslims into the country, Japan doesn’t allow the study of Islam, and only a “few hundred” Muslims even live in the country. I mean wow. Who knew?

So very simple and straightforward, right? Japan is safe because Japan closed its doors to Islam.

Full stop. End of story. Huzzah and hooray.

Now, let’s for a moment try to see past the sheer irony of someone like this using Japan as an example — I say ironic because I’m guessing that this dipshit would normally froth at the mouth if he even heard the words “Pearl” and “Harbor” in the same sentence. Further, let’s also look past the fact that even if it were all true, that doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make it simple…

It’s all bullshit.

Which is easily discovered through the strategy of —

Wait for it.

Waaaaaaait for it.


All you gotta do is take like, less than two minutes of your life and Google it. Hell, Google already had this one locked and loaded in the chamber, as it auto-filled the search term for me. It’s not only bullshit, it’s old bullshit — years-old from one of those chain letter e-mails you probably got from your racist grandpa. And it takes a shallow dive to see the author of the piece is a one of two authors who co-wrote this lunatic e-book about immigration (spoiler warning: its cover offers a big red clumsy font and an image of the burning World Trade towers) and whose entire presence on the Internet is a racist sham. (I’m not linking to any of this because, really, ugh.) And of course statistically, the 1.6 billion Muslims globally could not possibly be related to the fractional number of terrorists in the world, so tying one to the other is super-dubious and…

Point is, it took me no time at all in my day to suss this out. It took as much effort as it takes to clean a filthy window so that you can see through it more clearly.

It’s not your fault. Our brains are poorly wired. You know how like, Dell computers come pre-loaded with lots of junk-ware? Our brains come loaded with a lot of the same crummy software. Fallacies and fritzing logic centers and synaptic tangles that let us trust anecdotal information over statistical reality. Surely once upon a time this bloatware probably helped us defend ourselves from baboon attacks or something, but those days are gone, and now as we sit plump and happy anxious in our office chairs, we have to defeat our fucky reptilian brains and cleave to some kind of logic. Particularly when sharing information — because information creates for us a story, and story is important. Narrative matters. That’s why propaganda exists.

Here someone will probably say, WELL IT HAPPENS ON BOTH SIDES, and sure, yeah, yes, it does. And I’ve done the thing too where you share something and then learn fairly quickly that it’s old, outdated, or just plain wrong-o. Thing is, the power of JUST FUCKING GOOGLE IT is that it will limit the bullshit on all sides of a thing. It’s not perfect, no. It will not grant you 20/20 vision — certainly you have to possess reason and common sense, and further, Google is capable of floating bullshit to the top of the pond, too. And sometimes it’s not as easy as taking just a minute or two of your time. Sometimes it takes some actual reading! (gasp.) Just the same, in my experience it’s still a very good start. God knows, you might even learn something in the process.

So, repeat after me:


Truth will out. And, hopefully, Google will out, too.

(Small call to action, here: if you are capable of donating to charity, please consider doing so. Charity Navigator will rate charities for you and show you vital statistics of each charity, and so you might want to look at Doctors Without Borders, or the American Refugee Committee.)

64 responses to “Before You Share It, Google It”

  1. Is it the grandest sort of irony that I really want to share this post on Facebook because of all the nimrods that spread false information without bothering to freakin’ employ a bit of FACT CHECKING????

  2. My favorite is when an article shows us a statistic, then cites the source in a perfectly MLA-acceptable format. So I click the link for the citation and it brings me to a 404 or some other document that states NO SUCH FACT on it. People put a lot of work into making their falsehoods look real. The truth matters, so check sources.

  3. Snopes ain’t the end all be all either, they’ve gotten it wrong too.

    For me, I avoid sharing political stuff. Both sides are rigged to point fingers at the other and play a lot of nanny nanny billy goat. So, personally, I refuse to play.

    Yeah, I see stuff in my feed too that is all B/S or obvious attempts at sniping, I just scroll past.

    The truth is, we all have our biases and whenever we see something that aligns with our personal bias we want to share because it validates us and our beliefs. Add that to the fact that kids haven’t been taught the value or skill of critical thinking for at least the last 20 years, there’s a whole lot of crap out there that people don’t evaluate before they share.

    I try to just share that I think is of interest, hopefully positive or helpful.

    And it does absolutely no good to ‘do politics’ on the Internet as far as I can see.

    • Completely agree. I wish I could say the same, that I just scroll past. I at least check the facts before I do. I need to be stronger and refuse to play instead of getting caught up in all the hoopla. I weakness is that I want to educate the ignorant. I also want to move that mountain 20 ft to the right and catch a falling star.

      Hey, we gotta have goals.

    • Completely agree. It used to be those FORWARD-ME-ON chain emails that just seemed to make their rounds and come right back into your Hotmail/AOL/Yahoo inbox. Now that we have Facebook/Twitter and other social media outlets, it’s just so easy to share with your abundant number of social-networked friends. I’ve definitely been guilty of doing a quick share after reading a full article and going d’oh that was dumb of me after when I look into it further. But I try to be careful with what I share and feed others.

      Nothing irks me as much as the posts where you can feel the bias or the untruths oozing out of the very words you’re reading. It’s unfortunate that there are people who post something just to support their beliefs, regardless of whether it’s true or not. 🙁

  4. Back in the day when computer virus alert chain emails was the norm, the first thing I did when I received one was go on the Norton Antivirus website and check the section for fake virus alerts. 100% of the time the email was indeed fake, and I replied to the sender with the link and urging them to check the facts before passing it on.

  5. Equally horrific when people don’t check the source for articles and share satiric news sites as if they’re factual. It makes me sad when I have to tell family members or close friends to simply scroll down to the bottom and see that it’s clearly a satiric news site, it says it right there.

    • ^^Yes! There was an article from The Onion going around that had a picture of two orca whales in plastic bags (picture goldfish) and the story was about how SeaWorld places them there while they clean their tanks. I saw it shared many times with comments like “how cruel!” and “they have gone too far now!” I could not believe it.

      • I did that on purpose with the picture of the “poor dinosaur” they had strapped down to the platform of a truck, for transport to the filming of Jurassic World.
        It didn’t trigger the reactions I’d hoped for.

        • ^Remember when people got upset seeing that photo of Spielberg posing next to the Triceratops animatronic that was built to be laying on its side and they assumed he had “hunted” it? I’m still not sure if people were actually being serious about that…

  6. Thank you for saying what some of us know and have been doing for years. It is annoying when someone shares something that you know is wrong because you already got the info and googled it. I want to be polite and say
    “excuse me but you are wrong and if you just took five mins you would have found the facts” maybe I need to be less nice and next time (if I have permission) share these words.

  7. Great post. I have one concern however: I think (and would very much like to be contradicted with data) that some people want to share any information (true or outrageously false) that supports their own belief system…a belief system founded on the need to hate some “other” in order to fee good about themselves.

    • I believe you are correct. I suggested to a FB acquaintance that she might take the 60 seconds to fact check something, and she replied she didn’t care whether it was accurate. Mmmmmmmkay.

    • Hi waltsoc,
      there is indeed some evolutionary evidence that in humans within-group cooperation and between-group competition are linked (think of ‘group’ as a tribe, cultural circle, etc.). You may want to look into Evolutionary Psychology for more detail. David Buss, e.g., has written some good pieces about the nature human aggression.

  8. I always thought that fact-checking sites shouldn’t just be used to limit social media scat, it should also be used for Presidential debates. Anytime a candidate repeats something that has been debunked as false, a buzzer should sound and they lose their turn to talk.

  9. first, then Google because Google has burned me in the past. Hard to believe but with the sharing comes the news sources not fact-checking a damn thing and that’s when you get “Sum Ting Wong”.

    My big pet peeve? Look at the damn dates on articles!! I can’t tell you how many times people share horrible news stories and get insta-rage ranty over an article published five years ago and no longer relevant. Some articles don’t even have date stamps on them! Grrrrr….

  10. Several years ago when I had a shitbook account I used to see these dumb posts all the time and the standard response to telling people it was fake was, “who the fuck are you, the internet police” and the ever popular…..” I don’t have the time to look all these up so I just re-post in case they are real because wouldn’t be horrible if it was and I didn’t share.”…..Fine with me if you want to look like a frigging fool. Delete and block. lol

    But, since I have no friends and don’t need to see the useless drivel of whatever crap is floating on that ridiculous site I dumped it and don’t miss it.

    It was amazing to me how many people shared crap and didn’t care if it was true or not. I don’t know, guess they like the drama, staying ignorant and got the warm fuzzies from sharing some bit of fluff. Like they saved the world with a post and became stellar citizens. *shrugs*

    • I’ve run into this too. It’s like people don’t care about the facts but about how a certain post makes them *feel* – either with the heart-string pulling or the insta-rage sparking. You can show them proof there is no way a zombie child will be restored with angel wings with 100,000 likes and they will just call you an asshat because you dare trample on their feels.

    • Thank you for being someone else who thinks like this! I was beginning to worry there was something wrong with me and my FaceBook Phobia (for these every reasons – well, that and constantly being asked to make virtual cakes because, apparently, I managed to somehow land myself a ‘job’ in their virtual cafe.. I mean SERIOUSLY, can anybody PLEASE explain that insanity to me??!)

      And thank YOU Chuck, for highlighting this. I don’t mind being the one folks pass their chain e-mails on to because it says at the bottom that, if they don’t pass it on to at least five people they’ll be cursed/world poverty will never end/the cute fluffy kitten gets it, but… really? Guys, you need to be less afraid of the world…

    • I would argue that facebook, Instagram, etc. – despite proclaiming it’s all about being “social” and being “connected” – make the vast majority of people more passive in life.
      Think about it: it’s all happening in a virtual space; the only things you trade are attention and reputation. The impact on the real world is minimal.
      What we need right now is more offline activism, solidarity and dialogue – as in two people acutally talking to each other.

      • “Think about it: it’s all happening in a virtual space; the only things you trade are attention and reputation. The impact on the real world is minimal.”


        It’s like the part of the brain that gets satisfaction from a job well done gets that satisfaction without anything actually being done. The reward center or something like it? I’ve been guilty of it time and again. Surely it’s happening in others too.

      • One of my friends observed that social media has made people far less social than they used to be, and this is a guy who was there when “social media” was in its infancy with services like Prodigy, Compuserve, GEnie, NVN, Delphi, etc. He observed that we rarely have a substantive discussion on “social media” today. It’s mostly just people shouting different minded people down and giving props to like-minded people. (I pretty much agreed with him.)

  11. Thanks for the reminder! At the beginning of the post, I thought it was going to be about the photos of dead children going around today with the hashtag “prayforSyria” and claiming they were killed by yesterday’s French air strikes on Raqqa. Turns out they were old photos, some of them of bombings by Assad’s forces.

  12. I am simply going to post a link to this article whenever someone on teh Facebooks posts something that is clearly shenanigans. That way they have to read this first, and then Google that shit.

  13. And, while the risk for terrorism by the IS is low because of distance and Japan’s low involvement in ME issues, their risk isn’t null. Further, the Japanese have their own factions which have wreaked havoc upon their citizenry. :/ No one is safe from extremism, and extremism comes from all corners of the world, and can be of any faith, or no faith.

  14. People share things like that when the information such an article contains agrees with what they already believe. That’s why they are willing to spread the misinformation so readily, because it backs up what they’re already certain is the case. They don’t need to Google it, because it’s so obviously (to them) true…

  15. I’m so angry right now. And nearly ready to block some family members except for the promise I made back when I was not angry to never do that, no matter how aggravating and misinformed they’re being. So I’m just sitting her being angry.

      • It might help, right? I won’t get as mad at your family members as I would my own. I’d just be like “Oh those are Walt’s people. I’m just looking after them.”

    • I am sympathetic. I have unfollowed most of my FB friends, so I don’t see their malarkey in my regular feed. On the rare days I am filled with inner peace and stuff, I can go through their posts without needing to call down air strikes. This has made my life better.

  16. I wrote a blog post about this a while ago and the point will always be valid. I find it interesting how the mainstream media has become entertainment first and information second. They create outrage out of nothing at all sometimes. “Truth” the movie with Cate Blanchet and Robert Redford was about the death of investigative journalism. It was very interesting.

    I don’t see a lot of this in my facebook feed. I think my friends have become afraid to post anything political because I am quick to point out bullshit and why it is bullshit with links proving that it is bullshit. I’m always respectful, but I force them to really think about it.

  17. Excellent article and I agree that I wish 110% of us would do this every time we receive a topical post. However, there is a limitation on this strategy as Google quite often gives you both sides of the argument. So, there is the propaganda from both sides clamoring for attention when you must then sit on that damn pointy fence.

    People have mentioned Snopes, another good go to for clarifying the copious amount of crap that comes down the shit-tube.

    I recently found an alternative to both with the advice of never send an email in anger, sit on it and cool down first…even sleep on it. (Pre-electronic talk-fests groups of people had the old adage “Revenge is a dish best served cold!” What you can so quickly and so very easily and with absolute minimum effort is, right-click/open new tab/read later and then decide if you have to post it or not.

  18. I have this argument with my dad daily. He sends out crap, I plead with him to fact-check before he sends out crap, and he tells me to open my eyes. His mind has been so poisoned by Fox News, he thinks Google is part of the liberal conspiracy.

  19. Thanks for the PSA, Chuck. I feel like there are two fundamental problems with our society that all the other problems boil down to – lack of critical thinking skills and money in politics. “Just fucking Google it” addresses the first. Time for JFGI bracelets to take the place of WWJD.

  20. Puts me in mind of two Halloweens ago, when Facebook was flooded with warnings that meth dealers were drugging candy to get kids addicted. Meth dealers. Making meth, and sticking it in candy. Seriously expensive drugs were being jammed into candy, so kids would get addicted.

    For all the (HILARIOUS) concerned comments people made, not a single one questioned it. Fucking unreal.

    I linked to this article on FB, rather than post my normal monthly tirade. Thanks for saving me the time. (Also I read all your books on Kindle. Keep em coming)

  21. loved the post, even though I regularly delete FB posts without even reading through as soon as I can see what they’re about – or who they’re from!

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