Take the rumour mill with a pinch of salt

May 08, 2018, 07:02 IST | Team mid day

This paper yesterday reported that thousands of app users had received a picture of a fissure in a portion of the bridge, with claims that the flyover was in danger of collapsing

The recent frenzy over supposed cracks in the Kemps Corner bridge - the country's first-ever flyover - has been proved to be an overreaction, but also brings to light the power that WhatsApp has to spread misinformation and paranoia.

This paper yesterday reported that thousands of app users had received a picture of a fissure in a portion of the bridge, with claims that the flyover was in danger of collapsing. The viral photo sparked widespread panic; so much so, that the civic commissioner was drawn into the Kemps Corner frenzy. There was a post from a young politician seeking to reassure the public. The 86-year-old architect of the bridge also gave a statement to assuage fears and calm outrage bubbling on WhatsApp.

Through the days, more rumours came in, stating that the bridge was falling and traffic had been diverted. One can imagine the mental state of a motorist about to drive onto the bridge, if they were to glance at WhatsApp and spot the alarmist message. The rapid-fire messages sparked fear and anger. Reassurance, on the other hand, was much slower to come.

This shows just how important it is that we filter messages on WhatsApp, and not forward blindly. In this 'quick click' age, it takes just the push of a button to spread fear. Thankfully, the bridge fall phobia had no major repercussions, but it does bring to mind other times when WhatsApp messages have started and stoked the fires of a frenzied crisis.

Each of us has a responsibility to verify, or at least use some discretion, before pressing the forward button. There is no race where one has to be first to pass on information. In fact, there is merit in holding back, cross-checking, and then forwarding only if there is credibility in the message. In this instant age, let's not fall for anymore half-baked stories.

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