Social distancing leads to spread of bogus animal stories on social media

March 25, 2020

The world is full of gloomy news, and, for some, relief came in the form of news about how social distancing was having a major positive effect on animal life throughout the world.

According to social media posts shared far and wide, swans and dolphins had returned to the centuries-old canals in Venice, Italy.

People also happily shared the story of a group of elephants that passed through a Chinese village, became drunk and passed out in a garden.

Sadly, those and countless other posts are half-truths at best.

National Geographic writer Natasha Daly tracked down the person who originally created the tweet about the Venetian swans, who said she was just sharing something that brought joy.

There may be a reason why that tweet and many other false posts on social media are posted.

Getting a lot of likes and comments gives the poster an immediate social reward that makes them feel better during hard times, social psychologist Erin Vogel told the National Geographic.

“In times when we’re all really lonely, it’s tempting to hold onto that feeling, especially if we’re posting something that gives people a lot of hope,” she said.

The idea that nature could flourish during a crisis could make feel people better about their current situation. It would prove that “we went through this for a reason.”

You can check out the deep dive into false posts here.

Social distancing leads to spread of bogus animal stories on social media