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The first website I remember visiting is Snopes.com.
When I was a kid, there were some people in my life who liked to forward chain emails about all sorts of conspiracy theories and urban legends. Their critical thinking skills were rather weak at times, so I eventually began looking up everything they sent me on Snopes and replying to them with links to that site that disproved rumours like the one about strangers giving out poisoned Halloween candy or the one about people being drugged by strangers and having their kidneys stolen.
Sometimes that link was all I replied with if the conspiracy theory or urban legend was a bigoted and/or ridiculous one. I’m a patient person in general, but I draw a firm line at stuff that is used to harm people or that is so obviously untrue even a child should be immediately suspicious of it.
Eventually, they stopped forwarding any of those sorts of emails to me at all.
Adult Lydia would have been a bit more tactful when sharing links to disprove yet another wacky email, but I still think that people should research the information they share online before insisting that Scary Internet Story #567 is 100% true and that everyone should panic about things that a) are so vague no one has found proof of them really happening, b) are medically or scientifically impossible, and/or c) have been recklessly misinterpreted in the worst possible light while leaving out information that is critical to understanding the truth. Mixing what is at best a teaspoon of fractured facts into a frothy gallon of pure nonsense helps no one except scam artists.
Now I’m wondering if I should start reading Snopes again. I only have a couple of people still left in my life who believe in conspiracy theories and urban legends, so I don’t know too much about the current crop of them.
If you have a favourite lighthearted urban legend or conspiracy theory, tell me about it. I’m personally intrigued by the Area 51 lore and what the U.S. government might really be doing there.