When I was about 10 years old, a bored child in my Sunday school class said, “I feel like we just go over the same lessons over and over again.”
Our teacher kindly smiled and said, “You’re right, we do repeat a lot of the same lessons. Adults repeat a lot of the same lessons in their classes too. Why do you think that is?”
One child piped up and said, “Because they’re stupid!”
That, of course, was not the correct answer.
Our teacher said, “We need to repeat lessons because even though we already know, we all need reminders.”
That’s how I’m feeling as I sit here knowing what I’m about to type.
This past weekend, I was tagged in a Facebook post of what was posed to be a letter from Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announcing masks would soon no longer be required in the state.
The letter says the statewide mask requirements are set to end on Oct. 1, and that no business can refuse someone entrance into their shops if they are not wearing a mask.
I knew the letter was fake the moment I looked at it.
If this letter had been true, I would have heard about it long before a Facebook post started circulating. I would have received several emails from the governor’s office and my phone would have blown up with messages and calls from coworkers.
The “formal letter,” as it claimed to be, was anything but. The top of the page had a picture of Reeves’s face, which alone is something he would not do with a real letter.
The atrocious grammar was another red flag.
“All business are hereby ordered to take down all facemasks must be worn on or in they establishments,” is just one of the sentences.
The fake letter then claims Reeves took the action to end the statewide mask mandate on Sept. 17. However, Mississippi's statewide mask mandate, which has been in place since Aug. 4, isn’t set to expire until 5 p.m. today. At that time, the governor could decide to extend the requirements, which he has done several times already.
Despite all of that, the one sure way I knew this was fake was by checking the governor’s website, governorreeves.ms.gov. Sure enough, there was no mention of any such order.
If people didn’t want to exit their Facebook app to search that website, they could have simply searched “Tate Reeves,” found the verified page with the blue check mark and looked at the posts there. Again, no mention of any such order.
As wildly untrue as this letter was, it still went viral.
Far too many people are quick to believe posts they see on social media. Even if the letter had looked convincing, I still would have taken the time to verify if what I saw was, in fact, true.
I have seen plenty of warnings over the years telling people about the vast amount of false information shared online. But yet, despite how many times we’ve heard that, we still fall for so many lies.
Just as we are often taught the same lessons in Sunday school, there is a reason people need to be reminded not to always trust what they read online. We become complacent and we forget.
One of my favorite jokes is the fake quote by Abraham Lincoln that says, “If it is on the Internet, then it must be true.”
Obviously, that is incorrect for numerous reasons but that’s what makes it funny. But yet, we are often still guilty of being gullible enough to believe whatever we read on Facebook. This is why I try to stress to people to get your information, such as your local news, from valid, established sources such as the Delta Democrat-Times and local radio and television stations, and not from random Facebook pages and posts.
If you were to see a post that says Disneyland is offering free admission the rest of the year, are you going to take a week off of work, book a hotel room and make the trek all the way to California without verifying with that information?
Of course not, you would check the source directly. The same should apply to anything else.
Catherine Kirk is managing editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.