Last week I purchased a couple of Monster Rehab energy drinks at a local grocery (they’re so yummy) . The lady who worked the register where I checked out noticed my beverage choice and told me that her grandson goes to school in Antioch, Tennessee and last year his best friend’s heart exploded from drinking just one can of Monster. And he got it from the school vending machine. My initial response (in my head, of course) was “No Way! That can’t be real. I would have heard about that.” But I was curious, so I asked more questions. She was adamant and consistent with the details, so when I got home, I looked it up. And I looked it up again today to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I’ve searched and searched, but there is only one instance of a kid dying from a caffeine overdose in the US and he lived in South Carolina (and he had coffee, Mountain Dew and all kinds of caffeine within just a couple of hours).
his best friend’s heart exploded from drinking just one can of Monster
Now, I’m not defending energy drinks. I know caffeine, sodas and energy drinks are not good for you, and excessive amounts can cause serious health conditions… especially in people with preexisting heart issues. But, that’s actually not my point. My point is that this sweet lady believed the story she told me. She believed it so much that she felt it her responsibility to give me a little “heads-up” about my purchase. And I appreciated that. After all, she’s a very nice lady. But in doing so, she inadvertently perpetuated a falsehood. And the next person she tells might not do the research and might believe her every word. And then that person might pass on that information and before you know it, an urban legend is born.
That’s what’s happening in our media and social media today. There is too much false information being accepted and repeated by so many people who don’t check it out first. It doesn’t take much to verify what someone says on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else. You’re already online. Take a few seconds and look it up. That’s what I did and that’s what I try to do now. I repeated rumors in the past and was humbled and embarrassed after I found out the information I was sharing was incorrect. So, now I do my research. If I can find the same story from three unrelated and reputable sources, then I’ll presume it must be true (at least until new information is presented). I think we’d be able to avoid a lot of confrontation and get along better both online and in person if we double-check our sources before we start repeating stories.
In this case, our example is a likely unhealthy product of a giant corporation that may not give a crap about you and your heart (and by the way, this is where our own personal responsibility should kick in), but the principles are the same. The cashier at the grocery was spreading a rumor in an effort to be helpful, but if she’s not checking the facts on an alleged death close to home, then she surely isn’t going to check on anything else. And I’m afraid that’s where a lot of us sit today. We take in information and spit it right back out without checking to see if it’s true.
Dad always warned us about spreading rumors.