The world has always been a place where rumor and gossip rule the day. As long as there were forms of communication, misinformation started spreading from one person to the next. It’s certain that the advent of the post prompted the sending of countless written letters filled with juicy gossip from one village to the next.
Then, the invention of the telegraph provided an ability for people to send fast telegrams to one another filled with news from distant places, and of course the telephone made that process even faster and much more personal. The age of the telephone gossip was born. The countless hours that must have been spent through the decades, with rumors, gossip and outright lies spreading from one person to the next.
Finally, the greatest form of instant communication was born – the Internet. With the Internet came newer ways to spread information that was heard from one source or another, but never confirmed. Newsgroups, text chat, forums, blogs, and now of course one of the most popular of them all – Facebook – have given new life to the beast known as misinformation.
Inadvertently Spreading Facebook Myths
Why are myths started? At least one definition of myth is “any invented story, idea, or concept.” So why do such stories get invented? How do so many situations arise where people feel the need to keep spreading false information, without bothering to confirm whether or not it’s even true?
This is a part of human nature that appears to have been with us for eons. Many say that the Salem witch trials in 1692 were sparked by rumors and gossip of witchcraft taking place within a small colonial community. These days, you’ve probably heard rumors that the soft-spoken children’s TV personality Mr. Rogers was once a Navy Seal. Or maybe you’ve heard the one about Walt Disney having his body cryogenically frozen, rather than the truth – that he was cremated in 1966.
Now that Facebook provides people with an instant method to spread the things they hear, these Facebook myths are running rampant today more than they ever have before.
Facebook Privacy Lies
Here at MUO, we’re all about security privacy on Facebook. There have been numerous MUO news reports about new Facebook privacy changes, Angela’s thorough and accurate Facebook privacy guide or her recent tips about the newest concern – Facebook Graph Search. Unfortunately, there are just as many lies about Facebook privacy concerns spreading around the social network that are completely untrue. One example is the story that continues to be circulated that when your friends like or comment on your wall, that their friends can automatically see private updates on your wall.
This one is a perfect example of misinformation, because it’s based on a tiny morsel of truth – that your comments and likes on other people’s comments can be seen by the public – and it adds a huge mountain of lies on top of it.
People that really don’t know how to find out whether or not these security concerns are true simply believe it. Not only do they spread this Facebook myth to their family and friends, but they convince their friends to make changes to their settings that will make it so that they no longer see their own friends’ wall updates!
The truth is that the only way your friends can prevent this from happening is not posting public updates to their wall. They can do this by making sure the “Public” setting isn’t enabled on individual post updates.
I’m actually shocked sometimes by how many people don’t even pay attention to whether or not their individual updates are public. How do you know if someone’s update is public? Just look for the globe icon at the bottom of the post.
This means that your friends post is public. If you don’t want the general public to see your response to them, then don’t respond to a public post. It’s that simple. No super-secret security setting changes required.
Accessing Private Facebook Profiles
Back in 2009, I discovered that a lot of people wanted to know how to see the private wall of someone they knew. It might have been a girlfriend or boyfriend that hadn’t bothered to friend their significant other, a private investigator trying to access some information on someone, or a whole list of other reasons.
I liked writing controversial posts, so I took the challenge and attempted to come up with a creative way to solve it. At that point, Facebook had closed nearly every loophole there was – there really was no way to hack into a Facebook account. However, there is always a way to socially engineer. So I came up with a method to create a fake profile with an identical name as the friend of a friend. Then you request to be friends with all of the same friends as your target. Finally, you send a friend request to your target, they see that you have a ton of mutual friends, and they accept you. Viola – you can now see their wall.
So I was very surprised to discover that there’s a Facebook myth out there telling people about a very similar approach.
The meme is only true insofar as you have friends silly enough to fall for the trick. The thing is that it isn’t that serious and it certainly isn’t a “hacker” trick. There are lots of people with the same name as you on Facebook – no surprise there.
It isn’t a new thing. If someone wants to steal your photo and pretend that they’re you, you’ll just have to hope that your friends are smart enough not to friend them. However, just because your friends add them as a friend, it doesn’t jeopardize your own account or security in any way. It’s just a nuisance that can be taken care of pretty quickly with a report of fraud to Facebook. The issue is in reality quite rare.
Facebook Is Closing Down!
This happened in 2009 and 2011, and it triggered the viral spread of this silly rumor back then as well. An example of this kind of post from 2009 was as follows:
Attention all Facebook users
Facebook is recently becoming very overpopulated, There have been many members complaining that Facebook is becoming very slow. Records shows that the reason is that there are too many non-active Facebook members And on the other side too many new Facebook members. We will be sending this messages around to see if the Members are active or not,If you’re active please send to 15 other users using Copy+Paste to show that you are active Those who do not send this message within 2 weeks, The user will be deleted without hesitation to create more space, If Facebook is still overpopulated we kindly ask for donations but until then send this message to all your friends and make sure you send message to show me that your active and not deleted.
Founder of Facebook
Oddly enough, there has been a repeat news report in the Weekly World news that continues to repeat this very claim as well. In fact, the most recent one claimed that Facebook is ending (or apparently ended) on January 15th of 2013.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking on the part of Facebook haters, but Zuckberberg and Facebook representatives have informed PC Mag, CNN and many other media outlets that despite the constant spread of this meme, there’s not an ounce of truth to it. Facebook is not overloaded, Zuckerberg is not sick of running Facebook, and there doesn’t appear to be any impending doom for the social network any time soon.
For years, people have been trying to figure out who is checking out their Facebook wall more often. Maybe it’s vanity, or the vain hope that someone out there has a secret crush on you, but the search for how to determine your Facebook stalkers is very common on Google.
One claim that you can find on Reddit actually explains one such Facebook stalker meme as follows:
“On facebook, people who show up on your news feed without you engaging in interaction have been checking your profile, the more updates you get from them the more they have been “stalking” you, use this to your advantage.”
People have been guessing at how to determine who is most frequently viewing their wall for years, and the truth is that no one really knows why the updates that you see appear infrequent and erroneous. Some have claimed that you see updates from the people whose posts you’ve liked most often. However, the truth is that there’s no evidence showing that who you see updates from reveals who has been checking you out.
In fact, you can swap your notification updates from “Top Stories” to “Most Recent” to see absolutely all of the most recent updates in the stream from your friends, making the claim above completely false because the display scheme is completely time based.
Regardless the size of the element of truth within each of these memes, there is always a much larger element of falsehood to them. So, how do you know when a little piece of gossip about Facebook is true or false?
Well, Facebook actually created a special “Suspicious Emails & Notifications” section in the Help files for many of the most frequent fake claims that come up. You’ll find a lot of explanations there. Of course, sometimes a little bit of simple common sense will work out whether or not many of these things are true as well. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of that going around these days, so you’re sure to see an ever flowing stream of these false claims showing up on your friend’s wall.
The next time you see one – especially if it’s one of the ones above – make sure to let them know that it’s not true. You’ll be doing everyone a favor.
Have you seen any of these Facebook myths popping up? What other ones have you seen? Share your insight in the comments section below.
Image Credits: Encrypted Digital Lock Via Shutterstock
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