Even for those out there willing to count every person, it is nearly impossible to verify a population of 65 million people by counting them yourself due to the simple fact that before you have finished, the population will have changed.This means that in essence we just have to ‘take people’s word for it’ and hope that they verified it themselves. This explains the ‘apparently’ that appears before a ‘fact’ when somebody passes it on. Something that complicates this disconnect even further is that we are widely aware of prejudice with regards to the information that we receive. Many are aware that individuals and organisations do not always tell the truth and sometimes it is even in their best interests to lie. The term ‘fake news’ repeated endlessly by Donald Trump and his Administration is a perfect example of this; adding to the problem as it suggests that the government are the victims of this misinformation and not just the perpetrators. Due to this, we often meet ‘facts’ with a healthy degree of scepticism. Many of us now consider the likelihood of a ‘fact’ to be true as something directly related to the amount of motivation that the owner has to lie about it. However, this new way of interacting with information has led to an ‘echo chamber’ effect; if we hear a ‘fact’ repeated by enough people then we assume it is true. We assume that somebody along the chain must have done their due diligence and checked the ‘fact’ and the reliability of the source. Yet, with all the other issues highlighted above, presumably it is possible that we have all been repeating things that aren’t true to each other and then believed them? This was certainly the case with Lisa Holst’s ‘fake fact’ that each person swallows up to 8 spiders per year in their sleep; it still remains one of the most shared pieces of ‘information’ on the internet. Thinking back to everything that you hold to be true. Could you verify it? Are you sure it is true? How much do you really know? Because personally I don’t know.
© Durodoluwa Adebayo 2021
Holst, L. (1993) 'Reading Is Believing', PC Professional
Mikkelson, D. (2001) 'Do People Swallow 8 Spiders a Year?', available online at: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/swallow-spiders/