This post is a follow up to my last post about Facebook Myths and Intelligence Gathering. This post examines how the consequences of not fact checking something you saw on the internet or Facebook before sharing can be detrimental.
Here are a few specific examples:
Call 112 for Highway Patrol in an Emergency
One recent piece of “advice” tells of a story of a woman being followed by an unmarked police car. She gets a bad feeling about it and calls 112 to contact highway patrol to confirm. The HP dispatcher in the story confirms that the car is not actually a patrol car, but reveal later to be a convicted rapist.
Check out the Highway Patrol story on Snopes.com for the background of this hoax.
In self defense circles, people often talk about Hick’s Law for efficiency of responses in an emergency situation. In a nutshell, Hick’s Law states that if you have one response option to one stimulus or stimuli, reaction time is at its quickest. If you add a second response option, reaction time increases significantly.
If you live in the United States, you’ve been told your entire life to dial 911 in an emergency. Imagine yourself in the story above. You’re driving along, then flashing blue lights! You may start to get a little bit of an adrenaline dump. The distracting thoughts start racing through your mind. “What did I do wrong? Was I speeding? Do I have a brake light or headlight out? Is my tag expired? Where’s my insurance card? Is that a real cop?…”
With all that mental clutter, why confuse yourself more with a phone number that may or may not work? Just keep it simple. Do what you’ve been trained to do your entire life. Dial 911!
If you pass along a hoax like this as truth, someone may dial 112 at a critical moment when they should be dialing 911.
UPDATE: At least in Birmingham, dialing 112 will work. It redirects you to 911. Even still, why burden your brain with extra clutter?
Coughing as CPR
Another hoax making the rounds is that if a person is having a heart attack, they can cough as a way to keep the heart pumping to stay alive until paramedics arrive.
Here’s the background on the Cough CPR hoax on Snopes.com.
This is actually a real technique, but a quick Google search for “cough CPR” brought up some articles showing that both the Red Cross and the American Heart Association do not recommend this as a life saving procedure.
Unless you have sufficient medical training to recognize when and if this should be used, you could be causing more harm than good. I suppose it’s possible to get training in this method at home, but just reading a post on Facebook is probably not sufficient.
Imagine if you share this hoax on Facebook and someone tries it while having a heart attack. What if it turns out that doing this actually killed them when they could have been saved, or created permanent damage that didn’t need to happen? Do you really want that on your conscience? Perhaps we should leave this technique to the experts.
In the meantime, if you really want to help someone survive a heart attack, encourage them to eat right and exercise. Then enroll yourself in a legitimate CPR & First Aid course.
HIV Needles Under Gas Pump Handles & Burundanga Soaked Business Cards
Here’s the background on the HIV needles hoax.
Here’s the background on the burundanga soaked business cards.
These two hoaxed simply instill fear and paranoia, not awareness. In fact, if you are spreading these kinds of things in your social media circles, I would argue it’s because your awareness skills are not up to par. Think about that.
The problem with spreading these fear and paranoia inducing hoaxes is that your awareness radar can be on full alert for only so long before problems begin to arise. If your radar is kept on too long, you start picking up false positives. If you do that too long, your discrimination between legitimate fear and imagined fear begins to blur. You could become desensitized to your true life saving fear mechanisms. I suspect that given enough time, this could start to manifest into psychological problems like anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
For more information on how to recognize your true, live saving fear mechanisms, read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.
What Does This Really Have to do with Self Defense?
Self defense starts at just that. Defending yourself. But the next level is protecting those you care about. As martial artists, we are supposed to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We should be inspiring and instilling confidence and awareness in those around us, not fear and paranoia.
Your heart may be in the right place, but intelligence, awareness, and critical thinking are required.
What are some internet hoaxes that you’ve seen? Maybe fallen for? Have you had any situations where your fear was a legitimate signal to act and ended up helping you out or saving your life? Please post in comments.