It was one of the busiest days at work. I was deeply engrossed in my laptop. It was the last day of the project deadline, so the surroundings sounded of silence and seriousness. Everyone on my team had skipped lunch that day. My attention was divided between the software application I was working on and my mailbox in which I was expecting some emails from my colleagues about some critical issues.
Meanwhile, just to set some context, a couple of days ago, I had just finished my first year at the office, which also happened to be my first company. I, along with all my batch-mates who had joined on the same day, had received our first ever salary hike letters. We were generally in a mood of congratulations and celebrations. As you know, the first hike letter is special!
As I was expecting some very serious mail about critical issues, I got a message in my inbox. It was from one of my batch-mates. I ignored it for time being and kept on doing my work. Within minutes, then I got another message from another batch-mate. I ignore that too as I had to concentrate on my work. The deadline was lurking. After few minutes, few more emails came. Apparently, there was a mail chain going around with everyone replying to all. After ignoring them for a while, I opened the latest mail. It said that one of the friends had “heard” that the new batch of joiners have been given much higher package and that exceeded our current salary plus the hikes which we were to receive. As you all know, people are very emotional about money. This had started a chain-reaction. Many people had started replying to all in the same mail chain that “how wrong this is and we should do something about this. How could the company betray us like that?” Mind you, I had more than 50 batch-mates.
This replying to all going on for a very long time eventually choked my email inbox. I was neck-deep-busy that day but now my concentration had been compromised due to this unnecessary rumormongering. This constant barrage of email volley irked me. After ignoring for a long while, I decided to end the matter once and for all! I replied to all saying that I have just talked to the HR Manager personally and if this email chain does not stop, everyone’s hike would be canceled. I also added at the very end of the email that I was kidding but please do not send emails to all about such kind of confidential matter, as it is not at all professional.
And that worked! The shower of emails stopped. Some of my friends who thought I was really serious came to my desk and I told them that nothing’s wrong, I was just joking as I had got frustrated with the constant bombardment of emails onto my inbox. I told them about the last line of the email and the matter ended with laughter.
Everyone moved on with their lives. We finished our project on its deadline and life went on.
A few days later, I was at home on a vacation. I got a call. It was from office. I picked up. The person on the other side said that he was the HR of the company I was working in. He revealed that he had been forwarded that email of mine. The email also did not contain the part where I had said that I was joking. The tone of the HR was very serious. He asked me who had given me any right to spread such misinformation. I told him the whole story but he asked me whether I sent the mail or not. I said I did send but my intention was not to spread fake news but rather to stop spreading rumors. The HR said he does not care whatever was intended but since I was the one whose email he had received so I was to be blamed. He scolded me for 30 minutes before hanging the phone up. Luckily, he left me with a warning of never doing this again.
Toastmasters and guests, our generation is a generation of information. We all receive such messages. For example, UNESCO has declared our National Anthem as the best National Anthem. Drinking Coke after eating Mentos is Death by Explosion. Haven’t we? However, with this information overload, sometimes we receive some information, which is as far from the truth as Pluto is far from the Sun. There is an umbrella term for all such information. Can anyone guess? Yes, this plethora of misinformation is called ‘Fake news’.
Moral of the Story: First, do not believe the fake news. Always check several sources before forming your opinion. More importantly, do not react and spread fake news. In today’s age, whatever you share electronically, you have no control over where it will end up. Moreover, whether it will end up in its entirety or not, is out of your hands. I learned my lesson that day. Have you?
By the way, did you know that if you do not discuss this speech with 10 of your friends, you would have bad luck for 10 years?