One day my daughter came home from school and told me earnestly ‘gullible isn’t in the dictionary mummy.’ So we fetched the dictionary and looked it up and there it was. Gullible -‘easily persuaded to believe something whether true or not.’ She was of course humiliated and furious with the kids who’d tricked her, but you know what, she learnt to check things before she believed them.
I feel like telling my friends, or at least most of them, that gullible isn’t in the dictionary, in the hopes of creating the same life-long caution, because they seem to happily post, or re-post, any old nonsense. In the last few days I’ve been told that Facebook doesn’t let you see your friends’ posts, if you put your pin into the ATM backwards it calls the police, and there is a secret code on your cell phone that alerts the police in an emergency even when there is no signal.
All of them read like hoaxes to me and a combination of thought and careful googling proved me right. It took less than 30 seconds and yet my friends, mostly educated successful and intelligent people, had cheerfully promulgated the nonsense without checking. I of course point it out to them, as tactfully as possible, and the response is something like ‘ooops, silly me.’
Ooops? Is that it? Will ooops help you when you’re trapped by a rapist and think ‘never mind, my phone will call the police even though there’s no signal’? Will ooops help an old person under duress desperately trying, through their panic, to work out what their pin is backwards? No, of course not.
These hoaxes are potentially dangerous. We all need to be more sceptical. Not more gullible.