Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

June 28, 2012

GARY'S WORLD: Three years until Back to the Future Day

CROSSVILLE — It amazes me how fast rumors and folklore spread on the Internet. In fact, I often get a big kick out of some of the stories that circulate on the web, but feel like I have to set the record straight when I see these bloopers.

Such was the case yesterday when I was on Facebook and saw that one of my friends shared a photo image from classic 80s mega blockbuster movie "Back to the Future."

In the movie, Doc, a mad scientist, friend of Michael J. Fox, creates a time traveling machine made from a DeLorean automobile and Fox (Marty McFly) travels back to the 1950s.

In a scene from the movie, Doc sets the time machine ahead in the future on a digital readout panel inside the DeLorean. Wednesday, an image supposedly taken from the movie was posted on the web with the date June 27, 2012 and a caption that read, "It's Back to the Future day."

The whole thing was an Internet hoax that went viral in a matter of hours on the web. With the help of mega social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, the image which was posted on craft company Colour Me Fun's Facebook page had 10,000 shares, a 1,000 likes and 300 comments in a matter of hours and went viral over the web.

What strikes me as really funny is that this is the second time this has happened with the same thing. The first time the "Back to the Future" time hoax happened was in 2010.

Thousands of people, including me, were duped into thinking it was the date. The true skeptic that I am, a voice in the back of my mind said, "there's got to be a way to verify the real date on the Internet."

After some research I was able to find the clip from the movie "Back to the Future II" on YouTube.

Although the photo on the web says characters Doc and Marty McFly traveled to June 27, 2012 from Oct. 26, 1985, the actual date used in the film was Oct. 21, 2015.

Another three years until it's REALLY Back to the Future day.

So how did so many people fall for this hoax again? Here’s what happened according to social media news site www.mashable.com:

"Steve Berry, a social media manager for mobile checkout company Simply Tap, designed the (Photoshop) image to promote the Back to the Future trilogy Blu-ray box set for his client. The photo — which used Wednesday’s date as “the future” — was a deliberate reference to the same hoax that was accidentally started by Total Film in 2010."

Berry was referring to the first hoax, thinking everyone would remember it and get a chuckle.

“We promoted the image fully confident in the knowledge that everyone was familiar with the original hoax from a couple of years ago,” Berry told Mashable. “We figured that no one would fall for the same joke twice, so the caption was deliberately replicated it word for word so people would get the reference.”

However, the new image developed a life of its own and it too was posted and reposted all over the Internet.

I personally think what helps fuel the fire in cases of Internet folklore, or rumor spreading, like this is a nostalgic love for the past and the desire to make it relate to current times.

There must be millions of people who love that movie who, like me, saw it in the theater back in the '80s and thought, "Oh, how cool" and reposted the photo.

It's harmless fun, but in some cases — especially political instances — the viral lies can be damaging or hurtful.

One of the best fact-checking sites for these Internet rumors or urban folklore is Snopes.com.

I can't help but think it's kind of funny and sad at the same time. What does it say about our society and how gullible we are? With so many people trying to look smart at the same time with a simple re-post, or share — there's bound to be disaster.

Don't fall for this stuff. Do some quick fact checking and you'll discover that, no, President Barack Obama and the First Lady didn't say the pledge with their left hands over their hearts — it was simply a photoshopped picture that was flipped backward.

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