How I Fell for a Fake Facebook Page

I feel a tremendous amount of personal pride when considering myself a librarian. I feel a similar sense of self-worth knowing that I work with students and faculty around matters of digital learning -- another area that stresses an understanding of digital literacy. My training and my professional experience contribute to these senses of myself. I know this isn't unique to librarians, instructional technologists, or educators. Whenever we find value and enrichment in our paid work it's a cause for celebration. But particular to this work, and in these times, the skills I possess and the training I have been fortunate to receive offer value to others, and permit me a chance to be of service to them.

Part of this requires that I know what I'm doing. This weekend, I didn't. I fell for a fake Facebook page, got incensed about its contents, and I went on a short but embarrassing rant on both Facebook and Twitter. The page in question is here. It's contents, should you wish to not click through, are thinly disguised political satire written from the P.O.V. of our new Vice President. One post, for me at least, was highly effective bait. A photograph of the Women's March of January 21st, 2017, depicts a small number (fewer than 10) of Trump/Pence supporters -- recognizable by their hats and shirts -- walking among the scores of women's marchers. The caption reads:

Our Administration is proud to stand with American women and of our supporters' significant role in this cause. Despite the misleading Liberal Media's claims, we clearly saw that well over half of the participants in yesterday's march were Trump supporters. We do respect the rights of the minority of participants to dissent peacefully - this is what democracy looks like.

My breaker flipped. I made screen captures, and proposed that we start mailing used copies of 1984 to the D.C. Naval Observatory where Pence now resides. I began throwing about "bear false witness against thy neighbor" responses and, you know, having a freakout. Then I realized that I'd been fooled. And was being, in that moment, very foolish.

I deleted my Tweets, corrected myself online, and went to bed.

This morning during my commute to work I thought about what conditions were present that made me susceptible to this. I came up with these:

  1. I was tired. I was surfing after midnight, and after a full weekend of running around. My family and I were in Philadelphia on Saturday joining our voices to the Women's March. Ours is a family with two working parents, so Sunday was spent catching up -- doing chores and paying bills and such. I was beat, and my mind sleepy.
  2. I was emotionally invested in the issue. I care about this cause very much, so I was prepared to defend what it "means", and I needed very little invitation to engage.
  3. We had been there, and the claims being made could be personally refuted. I felt obliged to correct the record.
  4. The shared post came from a source I trusted. In this case a super-smart & generally critical family member. This isn't to say it's anyone else's fault. Instead, I mention this to emphasize that our network of trust is very important. Part of becoming and remaining digitally literate is being critical of those things we may have become to trust uncritically.
  5. The page is, to be honest, well crafted. It isn't immediately obvious that it's satire. Which makes for really effective satire.
  6. Our current events make this particular post land well within the realm of the possible. Things seem a little upside down right now.

Put all this together, and I didn't stand a chance. So today, I'm mindful and less judgemental of others who make these sorts of mistakes -- especially students. I'm also revisiting the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy, writing this mea culpa blog post, and taking my lumps.