Myths and Misinformation Manuel Velez March 2, 2022

Myths and Misinformation

'Stories matter' text on a typewriter
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Well hello there; glad to see you again. You must be eager for more of what the first episode of Varsity Clues: Myths and Urban Legends brought you, and you’re far from the only one. The podcast is a brand new addition to Emerge, so naturally there’s a lot of excitement around it. The podcast team is making use of Guelph-Humber’s new multimedia production facility to record each episode which explains why they podcast sounds as great as your favourites. It’s easy to lose track of time as you listen to your hosts on Varsity Clues break down some of the most fabled urban legends around college and university campuses.

Today, instead of busting myths I’ve decided to take a closer look at how myths differ from misinformation. The two topics seem rather unrelated but they have more in common than you might think at first.

Basis of Truth
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The common thread between urban legends and misinformation is that they’re based on truth. What do I mean by that? Simply put, both originate with something real: myths and urban legends are fantastic tales whose roots may lie in real experiences; misinformation usually focuses on a genuine topic or issue, but is intentionally false and deceiving information.

For example, one common type of urban legend involves malevolent creatures that live in the woods. Such tales spring from experiences that people have had while exploring the forest. During a hike through the woods, one can easily become disoriented by the landscape or startled by wildlife. Someone who is anxious and alert is more likely to imagine an encounter with the supernatural.

Switching now to misinformation, consider social media posts that share and comment on an article filled with false information. The bases of truth in these misinformation articles are the current events, issues or topics. On social media, where articles are suggested by an algorithm or shared by the people you follow it’s easy to fall into the trap of sharing without verifying the accuracy of an article. The sharing of misinformation gains momentum as more people fail to realize that an article is not based on facts and simply share it based on the headline which speaks to a sentiment that they believe in.

A Work of Fiction
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So while urban legends and misinformation have ties to truth, they are both ultimately works of fiction that appeal to people’s emotions.

In my opinion, urban legends might be unsettling, but they aren’t all that bad. Many urban legends are cautionary tales that were originally meant to alert others of real potential dangers.

I think misinformation is actually the greater horror, and what I (and all of us) should actually be afraid of. It is a destructive tool that poses a real threat to how we perceive issues and consequently, to how we approach solutions to them.

Question the Narrative
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Now all this seems pretty grim (or should I say Grimm), but our best tool is to always question the story. Who is telling it? How is it being told, and why is it being told by them?

Speaking of stories, and for myths and legends rather than misinformation, head on over to the “listen” section of the Emerge Magazine website here and bookmark it for easy access to future Varsity Clues episodes.

— Manuel, powering off.