Quizzing your Quizzes: Verify your “Shares” on Facebook, Part 1

Do you ever worry about all those quizzes shared on FB? What some of these quiz sites might really want is your information—the information that you don’t generally share with strangers, such as access to your FB page and your contacts’ list.

Munroe, Randall. “Xkcd: Communication.” Web log post. Xkcd: Communication. Copyright Creative Commons, Web. 13 April 2015. http://xkcd.com/1511/

Munroe, Randall. “Xkcd: Communication.” Web log post. Xkcd: Communication. Copyright Creative Commons, Web. 13 April 2015. http://xkcd.com/1511/

I have taken some of these quizzes myself. They are almost irresistible and usually quite self-congratulating, but recently, something was a bit odd about a quiz that I had just taken. It seemed a bit suspicious that I, as well as all of my friends taking the quiz, started posting that everyone had received scores of 100% correct, even though some of the questions had been quite obscure. (After all, who, besides me, knows anything about the Muscovite princes?) This result raised my curiosity and made me suspicious in a way that I probably should have been already.  I decided to stop taking the quizzes altogether. These quizzes seem to pop-up with an increasing rapidity, with their fun and attractive topics that appeal to everyone in an upbeat style and eye-catching images—favorite Disney princesses, favorite Beatle’s songs, favorite movies, favorite states, favorite form of mineral deposit—all just part of the fun and appeal of Facebook. However, who of us ever asks any questions about the things that we “Share” with each other, including these quizzes? How many of us ask, “Who is behind this?” or “Why should I give that nameless entity access to all of my ‘Friends and contacts?”

And what about all those posts, blogs, and articles that we share on FB? Can I investigate more thoroughly before I click share? Here are just a couple of things worth considering when investigating the sources of what we post:

First of all, you can copy the source or name associated with the FB quiz or website, by opening up a tab in your browser and pasting that name in a search box (or in other words, googling it). Sometimes that site or web address will have been researched already by people who have reviewed it to praise or debunk it. This first and most basic stop on the way to validating the legitimacy of a site is rarely even reached by most people. Do you think of this before you share something on Social Media?

Most people, unfortunately, see something, and “click”—share it. Googling Snopes.com or urbanlegends.about.com or charitynavigator.org or else, just trying to get some further and more objective information about the source of a post or quiz, should be the first step in satisfying my most basic need for verification and curiosity. If you think something is interesting, make sure that it really is worth sharing.

Additionally, the FB professional page of a legitimate source, such as a well-known company, will clearly show an appropriate number of followers to match their prominence (i.e., millions of followers for a major business, thousands or hundreds of followers for a local one) and their FB business page will click back to their real, working website and other social media (i.e., the Coca-cola business page will click back to their site where you can sign up for their legitimate Twitter stream; my professional page, “Susan W. LaVelle, Information Design” will show you my website, susanwlavelle.com, and clicking to my website, will show a live feed for my FB professional page and Twitter feed, both of which will link you back to my websites). Anything requested or shared on FB would more likely be found as legit if it links to the connections that legitimate that site as a reliable source. Finding openness and clarity helps to verify that the Facebook page that you are sharing from is actually what you think it to be.