The irresistible temptation to share conspiracy theories online

The irresistible temptation to share conspiracy theories online

A few years ago, a well-known local radio figure, with a sense of urgency and with visible concern on his face, suggested that I take my money out of the bank and buy gold. He said that he had discovered on a website that an imminent secret conspiracy of then president, Barack Obama, was under way. It would eliminate the dollar and implement a new currency called the Amero, which would be mandatory not only for the United States, but for all the countries on the continent. At first I thought it was a joke, but the reality was that the man was really scared.

I took the time to explain that a currency change of that magnitude was unlikely. Despite all the arguments I presented, it was in vain. In the end, somewhat annoyed, he told me that I would soon see it with my own eyes and that I would remember that conversation. Today, two years after the end of the Obama administration and without any sign of the Amero, I remember this incident as an example of how susceptible some people are to believing unlikely conspiracies, fears, and prophecies that appear on the web.

A few weeks ago, I met a group of people who very seriously claim that the sun, which you can see from your window, actually lost its energy decades ago. They say that NASA created a program to deceive the population and that the sun that comes out every day is not the star we all know, but a government machine. I asked for evidence to substantiate such a statement. In the absence of evidence, and given my constant questions, they declared that the government had brainwashed me.

Why do these types of ludicrous statements have so many believers? It is because there are people who prefer to live in a culture of fear and conspiracies rather than in reality, so they can blame their problems on the system and not on their own decisions. This is the same type of thinking that creates an audience for sensationalist media and alarmist Internet sites.

You may think that you are not affected by these kinds of far-fetched stories that circulate on the Internet. But have you ever shared information on your social networks from sources that you did not confirm? Have you been tempted to believe in some miracle cure for an illness without checking if it is real? On the Internet, there are tons of videos with baseless theories, which sadly spread misinformation on sensitive topics such as health, science, ecology, child rearing, economics, and politics.

Since we are approaching election season, it is worthwhile to urge our community not to be overwhelmed by alarmist Internet pages, or irresponsible media outlets or opportunistic politicians who profit from people’s fear.

Become a person who is critical of rumors and who asks for evidence. Be selective with your sources of information. Do not lend your ear to sensationalist media. Stay informed with serious, well-established media outlets such as La Noticia. Analyze the proposals and the work records of politicians who are seeking your vote. Do not get carried away by rumors or empty promises. Make an informed decision.

The information that we receive and accept, in one way or another, shapes our way of thinking and our behavior, hence the importance of being very careful with what we let enter our mind.

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Diego Barahona A.

Periodista, editor, asesor, y presentador. De 2016 a 2019 el periodista más galardonado en Estados Unidos por los Premios José Martí. Autor del best seller: ¿Cómo leer a las personas?