In a world full of guns, politics, and global warming – it seems we have a lot to be scared of. But what if one of the least threatening objects could be the start of something more? One chilling Facebook post has gone viral, warning people of the link between an elastic band and attempted burglary. But can we always trust Facebook?
In April 2016, Texas-born Kim Fleming Cernigliaro shared a story on Facebook, which started off with someone knocking on the door. Urgently.
Kim knew that the urgent pounding on the door wasn’t just the mailman wanting her to sign for a package or a next door neighbor. Instead, Kim’s first thought was that someone was in danger, and they needed a safe refuge. However, she had always been aware of stranger danger and stuck by her morals to never open the door when she is home alone, so remained silent and waited for the person to leave. Luckily, after a while, the knocking stopped.
On her Facebook post, Cernigliaro explained that she remained in the house for at least half an hour to ensure that the person who knocked on the door was really gone. But after a while, she wanted to investigate and ventured outside to see if the person had left any junk mail or pamphlets on her doorstep. Instead, there was nothing. The porch was empty. Kim continued to look around, and soon saw what the person had really left behind…
An urgent call
What Kim saw on her porch disorientated her for a moment. What was a rubber band doing around her door knob? Suddenly, Kim realized. On her Facebook post, Kim wrote that the rubber band had intentionally put on the door knob by the insistent knocker, who would use it to hold the door latch open when it became unlocked. Concerned, Kim rushed to the phone and dialed her husband’s number, who told her to keep their gun on her.
It wasn’t the first
After calling her husband, Kim knew that she had to alert the police about the incident – but as soon as she told them about the rubber band, they were not surprised. According to her post, the Sheriff told her that the same technique had been used in numerous burglaries around the area. The burglars would place the rubber band around the door, knock vigorously, and then force their way into the homes with ease because of the open latch.
A Facebook threat
Despite the fact she wasn’t alone in her ordeal, Kim wasn’t happy with the situation she had been placed in – and she finished off her Facebook post with a threat to the attempted burglars. ‘I have a GUN and I know how to use it’ she began and continued to flaunt her skills with the weapon, boasting that she had out-shot her husband at their last target practice and would not be afraid to use it if they ever came back.
As soon as she posted her story on Facebook, her friends and family all rushed to her aid to help share her ordeal – and it quickly went viral. Soon, people all around Texas were aware of the threat of the rubber band attempted burglary, and shared Kim’s post as a warning to those who still answered the doors to strangers. As the post reached more and more people, many of the local newspapers around Texas began to write about the story.
Furthering their investigations
As the story picked up more and more traction, news sites began offering their own insight into the attempted rubber band burglaries. In fact, many suggested that these burglars would often mark their targeted houses in advance, and always target the houses where they could be sure the homeowner was inside. This would allow them easy access into the home to steal anything they wanted. However, these stories were all based on one Facebook post, which they took as the truth…
The symbol of fear
Like all viral posts, the outreach is huge and can reach thousands of people. Suddenly, the Facebook post, the news articles, and the news coverage had reached homeowners from all across the United States of America – and they were scared. Soon enough, the concept behind the rubber band burglary had become a symbol of fear, with many people believing that if they were to find a rubber band around their door knob, they would soon be robbed.
A growing hysteria
As news stations and people from all across the country gave in to the growing hysteria surrounding the elastic band, many headlines offered advice. Residents were warned to vacate their home immediately if they found an elastic band around their door knob, alert the police and arm themselves if they felt it necessary. But more than anything, homeowners all across the US were scared to open the door to anyone – just in case they came to rob them.
The rubber band techniques
Homeowners, neighbors, family, and friends were all talking about the elusive rubber band technique, which allowed burglars direct access to your home and your belongings – and it all stemmed from one single Facebook post. Kim’s Facebook post. All of the subsequent stories and headlines came from a single person on social media, and the news blew up. And people believed it. Nobody stopped to think about the fact that the initial story may not have been true in the first place…
A shred of doubt
As time went on, people began to question Kim’s post – and they began scrutinizing her story. As they delved deeper, they found some questionable points in her Facebook post. For starters, many people picked up on a picture of her door, as a burglar would not need to use a rubber band. If the burglar had wanted to keep the door open and the latch down, he could simply use his thumb to hold down the lever.
The Sheriff’s word…
Doubters also questioned her comment that the town Sheriff had told her that rubber band robberies had become increasingly common, and had been happening a lot recently around town. Well, it turns out that wasn’t true. Snopes, a fact-checking source, and myth-busting site found that there had been no other robberies caused by this rubber band technique anywhere near where Kim lived, or in the country. It seemed, then, as if Kim’s story may have been an exaggeration of the truth.
The lone victim
Soon enough, Kim’s story was beginning to get debunked. This was heightened by the fact that Kim was a lone victim – and that no other person across the US was able to identify with the technique or back up her theory. After more investigation, Snopes concluded that Kim’s Facebook post was completely made up, and was created by Kim as a scaremongering tactic. They believe she used her story to make people aware of the dangers of opening the door to strangers.
Most of us use Facebook every single day, and because of how much we use it and love to share its content, it’s incredibly easy for unverified posts to go viral. If a person writes their warning post with enough authority, you can totally believe it. And it’s easy to do so, as they seem so convincing. However, because of this, anything can be deemed true, and Facebook is having a hard time filtering the truth from the lies.
Although we don’t like to use the phrase, Facebook is full of fake news from both personal accounts, verified accounts, and news accounts – mostly because it can’t determine the difference between fake news and the truth. And unless they employ people to investigate every single post, how could they? However, because of this, fake news stories like Kim’s permeate our news feeds on a daily basis and some become even more popular and spread even further than Kim’s rubber band burglary story.
A grain of salt
With the growing risk of cancer, articles on the causes, symptoms, treatment, and statistics regarding the disease are constantly popping up on our news feed. Nevertheless, half of the top 20 cancer-related posts on Facebook contain fake and false information. In fact, the best viral post of 2017 so far contains a claim which is actually disproved within the research in the article itself. This means we should take all new with a grain (or a handful) of salt.
Blatant false information
There are many viral posts and articles making the rounds throughout the internet that offer blatant false information – and some are pretty easy to spot, because they have no starting point. If there is no reputable source the article is basing its information from, the likelihood is that it is untrustworthy. This was the case when a rumor circulated the interweb, claiming that Facebook was due to claim ownership over all personally uploaded photos, whether your account was private or not.
The starting point
This rumor led thousands of people to begin copyrighting their own pictures, to make it harder for Mark Zuckerberg and his gang to take them and copyright them themselves. Of course, this story was not true, and had no starting point. However, because the story had gone viral and reached millions of frightened Facebook users, Facebook had to issue a press release refuting the claim, and ensuring users that their photos would stay their own private photos.
A worrying sight
False news stories are becoming increasingly common, with Facebook posts from all over the world garnering the attention of thousands of people – and all it takes is a few shares. But some fake stories are a worrying sight, including this story from Mumbai. In February 2017, a Facebook user under the name of ‘Zain Shaikh’ posted a story about his young nephew, who had seemingly been kidnapped and murdered by an unknown killer. Alongside the story, he posted a photo.
Friends, family and kind strangers rushed to wish him well, and offered prayers for the family underneath the post, and shared it to raise awareness and try to find the killer. The story was shared nearly 10,000 times before it was found that the story and the boy were fake and that all of the photos associated with the story had been randomly chosen on the internet. The post both shocked and horrified the scared Facebook users.
A reputable source
But fake posts don’t always associate themselves with crime and fear. Many false posts can also go viral because people pretend to be reputable sources – and pull on the heartstrings and wants of the people of Facebook. In May 2017, a Facebook post seemingly from ‘David Schwimer,’ announced that the cast of Friends would come together for a reunion in 2018. Of course, this seemed legitimate, and the post went viral. But on second looks, you realize the name is spelled wrong…
The Facebook ideal
Most of us use Facebook because you do have the ability to share content with others – that is the Facebook ideal. However, while most of us use the social media site to share pictures of cats and dogs or music videos, many share these kinds of (false) news stories with our friends to keep them safe from any potential threats. Perhaps this is the reason Kim decided to share her story, and used it as a warning. Unfortunately, it scared many people.
A thorough read
It can be so easy to see something on Facebook, read the headline, and share it without reading the facts inside – which can often lead to the increase in false news. So, it’s important to give any posts you share a thorough read to see if it could be fake or misleading. It’s also important to look out for people like Kim, who may have good intentions, but use the platform to promote a false and embellished post.
Luckily, Facebook seems to be cracking down on fake posts with new and improved technology. In 2017, they launched an international campaign to educate their users on their abilities to spot false news, and how to report it to Facebook. The site has also clamped down on fake Facebook profiles, and deleted thousands across the world which are not legitimate. Although we envisage this will not eliminate false news, it may diminish it and prevent stories like Kim’s from going viral.