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Grim's Tales: Thou shalt not post false witness against thy neighbors

Social media is a valuable source of information for my job. I have gotten incredibly important story ideas from posts by friends, but it never fails that someone posts something blatantly untrue and tempts me to discreetly block their comments.

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Social media is a valuable source of information for my job. I have gotten incredibly important story ideas from posts by friends, but it never fails that someone posts something blatantly untrue and tempts me to discreetly block their comments.

In this day and age, information is so available with the Internet at our fingertips. Breaking news spreads as fast as you can type. Rumors do too, and separating the two takes at least a little effort that, sadly, few are willing to undertake. All it takes, more often than not, is an online search to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Sadly, as people on social media continue to post these things without looking them up first, those of us willing to do the search find that we have to wade through those social media posts to reach the original source, which ultimately may determine the veracity of the "facts" we decide to propagate for the good of mankind.

Regardless of what you have seen on Facebook: Muslim women are not allowed to cover their faces for their driver's license photos in Illinois or any other state; Facebook is not banning those chain photos you just had to share (you got played); many of the claims made against police officers (Copblock anyone?) are doctored to the point of total falsehood; and the number of states that require children in school to recite the pledge of allegiance is higher than it ever was, and growing.

In many cases we post these things out of gullibility, in some cases fear and in way too many other cases it is pure prejudice.

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We should not allow this from ourselves and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

If you are a Christian, like me, your faith requires you to undertake any effort required to verify the truth of what you post (or not not post them at all?). Don't believe me? Google it. It's a commandment. One of the 10 that goes something like, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." (Yeah, yeah, they didn't have Internet in Moses' time, but it still applies).

Let's get it in plain language. Don't lie. That's it. And spreading Internet rumors that turn out to be false is still lying. Don't be fooled. It's just like passing hurtful gossip about someone in your community. It is a lie, and it is your fault if you spread it.

You could use the excuse that you didn't know that what you posted was false, but it's a poor excuse. If it takes me 10 seconds to find that what you posted wasn't true, what's your excuse? Laziness? Willful ignorance? Emotional knee-jerk reaction? If any of these hit a tender spot, maybe you should examine your personal Internet usage.

All it takes is searching the headline, plus "hoax," "fake" or "Snopes." There are dozens of ways to check. If that doesn't work, at least read the various versions of the story that pop up in the search results. If the names, locations and conditions change in some versions - well, I'll go out on a limb and promise you it's made up. Know how verbal rumors tend to grow or change with time? The same is true of the Internet.

What if, after a search, you aren't certain? Well, just act like the thing you are saying is about your next door neighbor, or a family member. Would you feel comfortable posting the same statement about them with what you know? What did your grandmother tell you? "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

And don't blame a younger generation either. The older generations of people I was raised to respect and admire are as bad as the younger generations in this.

I get it that Internet use is difficult for some people, so it isn't easy to search to verify that their post is true. I get that. But then you shouldn't post at all. If you don't know how to use a tool responsibly, you should not use it. That goes for the Internet as well as anything else, be it a chef's knife or a hand gun.

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The Internet can be virtually as devastating as a gun. Would you trust someone with a gun if that person has a tendency to just point and aim it at people willy-nilly? We should treat our words as carefully.

Watching someone hurt someone else is just as bad as hurting them yourself. Know this: If I see some harmful false post on your Facebook wall, I will show you a link that proves it false, and I will remind you of the commandment you so plainly ignored.

Opinion by Travis G. Grimler
Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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