Years ago, I was a Resident Assistant when I was a senior in college. For those of you who didn’t ever experience dorm life in all it’s room-sharing, communal bathroom and institutional furniture glory, an RA is typically a responsible upperclassman assigned to live among a group of residents and keep an eye out for things. We were there to help the residents out if they needed it, be a listening ear and a friend. We also busted up parties when the need arose. So I’ll admit I may not have been the best person for the job always. I may or may not have done a shot or two downtown with some of my residents. And maybe hooked up with one of the other RAs on staff even though that was frowned upon. But as a party girl with several years worth of knowledge on how to sneak booze into the dorms, I was the perfect “inside man” to be an RA.
Someday I will wax poetic about all the fun I had that year; there are some damn good stories from that time. But I digress, today I want to talk about one story in particular and how I woke up yesterday morning thinking about it and how it resonated suddenly with me here in 2020.
That year, me and my fellow staff member and dear friend Catherine were on the RA Advisory Board and shared the position of recording secretary. We called ourselves the “queens of the vine” in honor of the RA Newsletter we published monthly. Polls and funny tidbits made up this publication and we were liberal in our use of clip art (it was 1994 people; clip art was CUTTING EDGE). My favorite segment was the “Staff Survey” piece where we would interview a specific staff, asking deep questions like “ranch or bleu cheese” and “what superpower would you like to have.” I’m telling you, this was hard hitting journalism.
As we turned our attention to the end of the school year and the annual celebration that came along with it, fondly referred to as “Fred Fest,” Cath and I knew we had to put something special in the newsletter. Fred Fest typically included a semi-well known band along with enough binge drinking and house parties to make moms cringe and the local police to require a fair amount of overtime.
And because Catherine and I speak sarcasm fluently, we knew what we had to do.
“ABBA Reunites to Play Fred-Fest”
The headline was large and the copy below it was probably rife with outright lies. We knew no one would believe it; the whole thing was totally tongue-in-cheek and impossible to believe. We would be wrong.
Now, imagine our surprise when we heard from someone in another dorm, telling us that he overheard one of the residents talking to another resident about ABBA playing Fred Fest. What the WHAT?!? Having seen the RA Newsletter sitting on a desk in the front office of the dorm and assuming it looked official because of all our fancy (at the time) desktop publishing skills, people believed that it was true. And the rumor spread. It was amazing and hysterical.
Now, 25 years later, I see how this same thing plays out in a much more grand scale. Technology, the Internet and Social Media have enabled this kind of foolishness to a level I could never have imagined if I had not seen it myself back in 1994.
As I look around lately, I think of how a lie can grow. and if that lie “looks” official, it has the capability to grow even further. I know people that are wizards with Photoshop and I love when they use their powers for good, like when they create fake Fisher-Price toy boxes with gems like the “Happy Hour Playset.” I can usually spot a Photoshop job pretty quickly; not everyone brings the same skill set to their work. So when I see really obvious Photoshop hack jobs, I am quick to call them out.
I should not have to say this, but I will.
Do not believe everything you read on the book of faces (some may know this as Facebook) Do not believe everything you read and see on Facebook’s cousins Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Personally, politically, professionally. If the thing you’re seeing or reading seems too outlandish, too crazy, rife with conspiracy theories; it might be a good idea to verify it before reposting it. Because it’s probably made up like that ABBA concert.
I get it; especially if the thing you’re seeing happens to align magically with your belief system. But that does not make it more true and in fact, because of all the crazy FB algorithms that present you with content, I would tend to be more suspicious of it. Check it out, invest some time and search for some other source, hell read the freaking comments. Just do a little research before you hit that “share” button. Amplifying a lie does not make it true; it only makes you look like a fool.
And this does not just apply to made up crap on the book of faces. This is true for the factual stuff as well. Every single time I see a post about someone looking for the parents that gave them up for adoption, every missing kid…each time I’ve taken the 2 minutes to scroll through the comments I usually find out that the person has in fact found their folks or that kid has been located, Sometimes happily and sometimes not happily, but that’s the world we live in. I cannot change that but I can do my part and not amplify it.
So you may be wondering, Shannon, what the hell does this have to do with Resisting Invisible? And I’ll tell you, well, it’s my blog and I can do what I want. 😉 Every now and then I just want to get up on a soap box and yell about some shit. But honestly, I feel like sometimes you’ve got to be blunt and honest. If that makes people uncomfortable, too fucking bad.