People make stuff up on the internet. Other people believe it.

Just last week I had a conversation with my 11-year-old son about a “fact” he had read on the internet.  He told me that after the movie “The Princess and the Frog” was released, more than 50 kids were sickened by salmonella and treated in hospitals after being inspired by the movie to kiss frogs.  I was quite skeptical when my son shared this so I asked him what site he read that on.  The site name was quite sketchy so we then had a good conversation about credible internet sources.  I told him that some people make things up on the internet just for the purpose of getting attention or even to have fun fooling others.

Then I had my own “frog kissing” moment today with a post I saw on Facebook about Pope Francis’ address to the Third Vatican Council.  The “article” shared how Pope Francis said that it is time to be tolerant of other religions, lifestyle choices, and be inclusive of everything and everyone under the sun.  I didn’t doubt the veracity of the post at all as I had recently read about Francis’ attempts to expand the reach of the Catholic Church and make it more relevant to modern times.  After reading this, I even spent a few minutes orally sharing it with my wife and other family members who were in the room at the time I read it.  “It’s about time we have more tolerance and acceptance in the world,” I declared, and then I went on to reshare and comment on the article on my own Facebook page (below).  Hook. Line. Sinker.

A short while after I shared the post, Josh Allen gave me a polite nudge to question the authenticity of the article.  A quick Google search confirmed that the story was false.  There has not been a Third Vatican Council. This speech wasn’t delivered anywhere.  I followed none of the advice I gave to my son last week. Didn’t check the source. Didn’t think it through before passing it on as truth.  The site hosting this article wasn’t trying to be sneaky.  Click on their “Disclaimer” page and it clearly states “The original content on this blog is largely satirical.”

So why was I so quick to believe it? A few things come to mind.  I wanted his words to be true as I do think we need more tolerance and love in the world.  I don’t know much about Catholicism or the Pope himself.  My own desires and ignorance did me in, and that recipe has been used to persuade people for as long as there have been people.

What did I learn? Take a few minutes to check sources. It’s that easy.  Just as important is how Josh politely prompted me to think about what I had shared.  He didn’t hammer me with my own ignorance and gullibility.  He offered me a path to find the truth and I took it.  I even came back to admit my error and maybe help others avoid similar issues.

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