Friday, November 17, 2017


There is this picture of a wolfpack that's been making the rounds on the Internet. It's been floating around for the past couple of years, from what I understand, but I just encountered it earlier today. Somewhere along the line it acquired a description that makes it out to be a marvel of teamwork and leadership in the animal world, and, of course therefore a model that we humans should be emulating.

I found the picture, with its new description, on LinkedIn. Which doesn't surprise me. LinkedIn has something of a low-grade obsession with leadership. If someone can create a flashy graphic or pithy meme that claims to explain the secrets of leadership, it's a safe bet that someone will post it on LinkedIn. So of course, the wolfpack photo, with its description that was all about wonderful leadership, made it there.

As you may have already guessed, if you didn't already know, the new caption that the photograph had acquired was completely bogus. Someone had attached it to the the photograph along the way, and it bore no resemblance to the original caption that the photograph had been published with. I found this out fairly quickly - a former co-worker of mine had come along and posted the Snopes link to the debunking. But it had been posted, and reshared, by a couple of people before that. I tend to be dubious of the leadership tropes that finds their way onto LinkedIn. A lot of it looks suspiciously like virtue-signalling. And to be honest, this wolf photo caption did to. More than likely, if my old co-worker hadn't posted the Snopes link, I'd have simply gone right past it without a second thought. But if it had been something that I found more interesting, or more compelling, would I have been taken in? I like to think that when information that just happens to align with my prejudices and preconceptions finds me on the internet, that I tend to fact check it. After all, everyone's inclined to fact check the things they suspect (or want) to be false - it's the things that one wants to be true that get you. But I don't have time to fact-check everything, and a lot of things slide.

And so I wonder if that's the secret to how things spread on the internet - being seeing plausible, and not too good to be true. The internet is a deep well of information, and that very depth is what makes it unreliable - there's so much information that it's difficult to check the provenance of it all.

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