On Saturday, the World Weekly News announced Facebook would shutter its site on March 15, never to appear online again. And the Internet fell for it.
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World Weekly, the longtime satirical tabloid probably best known for its “Bat Boy” series, claimed that running Facebook had ruined founder Mark Zuckerberg’s life, and therefore he announced the end of the social network to World Weekly in a “private phone interview.” Aside from simply “closing the web site,” (which is incredibly difficult to do, by the way,) World Weekly claimed that all user photos, notes, links and videos would be permanently erased, sending the collective web psyche into a spiraling panic. While I have to admire the comedy in the story (and in the equally funny “April Fools!” moment it produced), it’s pure fiction.
There’s been no stopping social media hoaxes as of late. Twitter deaths are so rampant they’re killing at least a celebrity or two a week. In the past month, Raven Symone, Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson and even Adam Sandler have all been targets of the deathtweet rumor mill, and while the media is quick to shoot down rumors, this culture of “I’ll believe anything you tweet” is growing increasingly worrisome. Our rapid fire information age is a nifty advancement, yes, but our own tendency to shoot out unconfirmed information is problematic. Not that I expect you to rush off to the library or put in daily calls to the Los Angeles coroner’s office, but a bit of diligent Googling goes a long way, folks.
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Hopefully, we’ve learned something here. Hopefully, the next time someone cries “OMG Celebrity Death!” we’ll think twice before mindlessly retweeting. And no, Facebook is not shutting down on March 15.
The jury’s still out on the state of Zuckerberg’s happiness.