Opinion: Social media rumors should not be legitimized

Elissa Treu, Reporter

Today, it’s a valid statement that people believe most of what they see on social media. It seems that more people use Twitter as a news source than turning on a TV and actually listening to the latest stories or picking up a newspaper and reading. Loose headlines become a catalyst for mass fear and confusion, and rumors started by no one remotely credible spread like wildfire. 

On January 3, Iranian Maj. General Qassim Suleimani died in a drone strike from the U.S., authorized by President Donald Trump. “Suleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him,” President Trump said in a statement to the press. 

Within hours, I watched as Twitter and TikTok erupted with memes about dodging the draft (that ended in 1973 by the way) and fighting in World War III. On my TikTok “For You” page, I scrolled through many short videos set to the song “Hey Mama” by David Guetta. Users of the app portray themselves reacting to hearing about the draft of WWIII with the lyrics of the song rapped by Nicki Minaj, saying, “Yes I do the cooking, yes I do the cleaning,” to imply that they’d rather play the old-fashioned, stereotypical role of a housewife if war broke out. Behind the mask of lighthearted comedy was a legitimate fear that the world would soon be at war and we would all be fighting in it. This raised questions that I asked myself during this chaos: Where did we even hear that a world war would break out? Who told everyone that?

Relations with Iran have been tense ever since former president Jimmy Carter issued sanctions on Iran in 1979 during the Iran Hostage Crisis, and they will remain tense even after the trending tweets about WWIII have faded away from people’s timelines. Future decisions that involve relations with Iran need to be treated seriously, but not with panic and hysteria masked in memes in jokes. 

Taking false narratives and running with them in any aspect of life is generally not a good idea. That being said, next time you find out national news that shocks you, do some research. Find the facts and critically think about how they make you feel and why they make you feel that way. Delete that clever tweet you have saved in your Twitter drafts based on fragments of national news and check in with what is really going on.