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Young people are ill-equipped to navigate an internet clogged with fake news

Esther J. Cepeda on

CHICAGO -- My son, his best friend, Dave, and I were chatting over a pizza last weekend when Dave dropped some (absolutely incorrect) information: The elderly are forgoing nursing homes for cruise ships, because the room and board cost about the same, plus you get entertainment and travel.

Again -- this is not a real phenomenon. A few healthy, affluent retirees have spent a few years this way, but the cruise ship industry is in no way prepared to offer extended care for masses of frail elderly adults with complex medical conditions like chronic diseases and memory problems.

When I prompted our friend for more information, he said it made sense because cruise ships have onboard medical staff and morgues.

When further pressed -- in my son's spirited retelling, I'm described as in a rabid state, pouncing on his innocent pal -- Dave said he'd definitely read a news story about it.

Errrrr, actually, he knew he'd definitely seen it somewhere.

Mmmmmm, maybe on Reddit?

 

My son acts like at this point I had fire blazing from my eyes. I'll only admit that I was alarmed.

Dave is a bright young man who attended an excellent high school, just completed his first semester of college at a fancy East Coast university and is generally thoughtful and curious about the world.

But he passed on information he believed was fact because he saw "something" on a news aggregation and message board site, or "somewhere."

This gem about retiring to a cruise ship has been around since at least 2003, according to the fact-checking site Snopes.com. It started out as a bit of viral e-lore, and there have been a few examples of real-life extended stays. But today, otherwise legitimate news-gathering organizations post branded, sponsored-content "articles" (these are paid advertisements) about how to plan such a retirement alongside real news that was reported by professional journalists and vetted by editors.

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