This is a classic story, and one of Aesop's Fables that tells the tale of the dangers one brings forth for calling false alarms. In the tale, a small boy entrusted to watch the flock runs into town alerting the villagers that a wolf is eating the sheep. They all come to his aid and the boy laughs. "Gotcha!" he proclaims, and after a couple times of doing this the villagers decide not to trust the boy and then when he really needs help the trust is gone and well... the wolf get's a tasty dinner.
It seems our industry of Marketing and Advertising could stand to have a fresher on this tale. Lately there is this trend: Send out a news story... wait, not just any news story, one that is remarkable, maybe never seen before... a holy crap I need to send this to my buddy kind of story. It starts as a Tweet, a video, or a Facebook post. But this is the thing. The story is a hoax. Just an elaborate rouse to push a cause, highlight the brilliance of an actor, or hype up a night time show.
Many of us have fallen victim to these hoaxes: The twerker, while filming herself, catches on fire by her friend knocking her over. The SOS symbol from a woman stranded for 7 years on an island found on Google Earth, The tragic death of Wayne Knight (Sienfield's Newman), or the woman who quits her job on Twitter, only have her former boss retaliate–yes, on Twitter.
But these are not a hoaxes They're called lies. A hoax is an act intended to trick or dupe. A lie is an untrue statement with intent to deceive. For us that line is not black and white, it's a whole lot of the same. The danger with this trend is the public's de-sensitivity to real extraordinary events or shocking news stories. Like this amazing story from West Jet during the hoidays. Hoaxes crowd the space and create doubt for true stories like this. The public becomes untrusting, just like the villagers in the Boy Who Cried Wolf. In an industry where consumers are already skeptical from being over marketed too in the digital age, it seems like we who are in this industry should not make it more difficult. Reputable news sources are even running these hoaxes as news stories in an attempt to be the "first on the scene". Really it makes us all look stupid.
And then our sheep get eaten when we're not looking.