Hawkeye POV: Use wisdom, caution when posting on Facebook, Twitter

ULM Hawkeye

Hopefully everyone learned a valuable lesson from the incident that took place in Winnsboro last week.

Sharmeka Moffitt suffered severe burns after she said three men in hoodies set her on fire. Investigations by the FBI and the Louisiana State Police showed that she made up the story and actually set herself on fire.

Moffitt’s car had been vandalized with racial slurs and the letters “KKK.” All signs pointed to a hate crime.

Social media exploded Sunday night with people calling for justice. Rumors spread that three KKK members had burned Moffitt, and others said she’d been raped.

If you accept Facebook and Twitter as reliable news sources, you also may have believed that Moffitt was wearing a Barack Obama T-Shirt at the time of the attack.

None of this was true.

It’s sad that Moffitt felt it necessary to pull such a horrible stunt. The Hawkeye won’t try to guess her motives. But what’s even sadder is the torches and pitchforks, which some people started brandishing on Facebook.

The Facebook and twitter accounts for local media blew up with people telling their accounts of what happened. None of these people were there, of course. And some added more false claims.

Before long, some media outlets began repeating the rumors of the Obama t-shirt rather than waiting to verify the facts of the case.

It’s bad enough so many people believed those on social media, but for professional media sources to report unconfirmed rumors is disappointing. It’s a symptom of the rush to be first and how social media is making things worse.

Throw information on the web so we can say we were on it. Clean it up later if it turns out to be wrong. No wonder media is losing credibility.

The posts served as a political rallying call. Others used this event as a megaphone to spread the word that racism was still alive and well in Louisiana.

Of course when it was revealed that Moffitt did it to herself, a lot of people shut up.

When it was revealed that the accounts of some people who weren’t there were wrong, people stopped talking about it.

Can we take a moment to think about this? What does this say about us? Did those hundreds of people tweeting false reports correct their mistakes?

What you post on Facebook or Twitter can effect those around you. These posts caused news agencies to report false claims.

So many were so ready to believe a status update that any semblance of the truth was pushed to the back of their minds.

Almost everyone rushed to the conclusion that some racists set a girl on fire. Granted, it would have never crossed our minds that Moffitt would set herself on fire.

But we rushed to our soapbox, shouting the rumors on Facebook and what a shame it was. The real shame here is that few people waited on the facts before making their judgments.

We need to be wiser with our Facebook and Twitter accounts, especially if you’re someone people trust for reliable information.