I use Twine to track information on the Internet. I like it better than other link sharing sites because it sends me a digest of the things that are important to me with enough detail to determine if I want to follow the link or not. The other day, I got one with the title, “Stare at Boobs to Live Longer.” Well, I had to check it out. It led to a story that quoted a German study that concluded that men who stared at women’s boobs for 10 minutes a day could extend their lifespan by 5 years — the equivalent of 30 minutes of exercise each day.
Thankfully, the story ended with a notice that this was completely false. In fact, this rumor has been running around the Internet since 1999 in one form or another. As most of you know, I tend to be skeptical of most things until I’ve had a chance to investigate or play with it personally. Nonetheless, I was ready to believe that the research had been done. I just wanted to know what the error in their study design might have been. I would have quoted this study to others as I went about my day as if it were true. I’ll still probably reference it, just to see how many people take the bait.
This is a relatively unsophisticated farce, yet it has survived online for a decade. The message here is to keep your eyes open when it comes to things you read online. The benefit that professional journalism brings to news reporting is fact checking. Even with thorough checks, professionals sometimes get duped. I’m constantly reminded of my favorite Internet cartoon: