From fake tweets to feigned poverty, the Internet was ablaze with hoaxes in 2013. Tess Lynch reported on the “rise of the hoax economy” for Grantland, calling out the biggest dupes of the year.
Lying isn’t new, but the nature of the lies is changing, Lynch writes: “Our focus has shifted from the amusing to the emotional.”
The emotional stories draw many in, including the media.
“I think what it says is that we still haven’t figured out how to navigate consuming news online,” she tells NPR’s Arun Rath. “Sometimes it’s harmless and fun, but then other times — especially when crowd-funding comes into play — it gets a little icky.”
Here are three of her highlights:
Waitress Gets Extra Tips
New Jersey waitress Dayna Morales posted a picture of a receipt with an anti-gay comment — and no tip — on Facebook. The online community rallied to her side, donating thousands of dollars. But the customers later came forward and shared their copy of the receipt, which did include a tip and did not have the negative note.
Stuck On A Plane
On a Thanksgiving flight, television producer Elan Gale captivated his Twitter followers with accounts of a rude passenger named Diane. He even roped in news outlets. Alas, Diane was a figment of his imagination.
“This one was the one that totally got me,” Lynch says. “It kind of got to the point where everyone was watching it like a reality show … It seemed so intricate that it really didn’t occur to many people that he could just be making it up. And why would he?”
Amid a constant deluge of cat memes, one cat photo tricked some into thinking it was real. A photo of a two-legged “half cat” turned out to be an altered image of a four-legged feline.
No, we don’t all need to become hardened cynics, Lynch says. Her advice: “I think what it’s really about is tempering that emotional response and adding a little bit of the rational response that we kind of have in our normal lives, where you take a person and you consider that person’s motivations as being very layered.”