Hey, everybody! First – oh wait, Grammarly wants me to add a comma after “Hey” – I want to shout out to everybody in Canada and the U.S. for their respective birthday holidays. It was a great week for celebrating here in Calgary, Alberta. Let me tell you!
And now, on with the show!
So, there is this picture that floats around the internet and I am sure that some of you have seen it at least a thousand times.
This picture is of a pack of around two dozen wolves trudging through the snow looking all haggard and badass like wolves do. The thing is, this picture is always carried along with the following caption:
A wolf pack: the first 3 are the old or sick, they give the pace to the entire pack. If it was the other way round, they would be left behind, losing contact with the pack. In case of an ambush they would be sacrificed. Then come 5 strong ones, the front line. In the center are the rest of the pack members, then the 5 strongest following. Last is alone, the alpha. He controls everything from the rear. In that position he can see everything, decide the direction. He sees all of the pack. The pack moves according to the elders pace and help each other, watch each other.
The first thing that we need to cover here is that the above entry is entirely false. Provably false. Don’t take our word for it, we are not the first people to talk about the subject. One of our favourite resources for debunking myths – that has been around for over a decade – is Snopes and they lay out the truth in a handy slideshow complete with hip-hop track.
Snopes.com Covers the Wolf Pack Myth
Critical Thinking in the Age of Confirmation Bias
This has been a really crazy year for all of us. Like, around the world. Through it all, it has started to become very clear that many of us are forming our view of the world solely on how we want to see it. That, actually, is not something we did on purpose; it is, however, something that happened because we naturally will gravitate to things that we like or will at least accept.
Look at social media for example. Actually, for anyone of you who listens to Gary Vaynerchuk, we wouldn’t be looking at social media. Twitter, according to Gary V., is the last social platform. The rest are “push” platforms. Which makes sense. Facebook and Instagram, for example, are specifically designed to give you only the content that is relevant to what you actually view. Or, in other words, what you like. If you absorb particular content regularly enough, the algorithm says “Yup, this is the stuff this person wants to see,” and you get ONLY that content.
This, as it happens, is actually bad. It creates a very narrow and unenlightened view of the world.
Great for marketing, terrible for your social life.
So, when a picture comes around of the enigmatic wolf and it’s coupled with an uplifting quote, and if it talks to your emotions, then you are more inclined to believe it. Why wouldn’t you? For one, it’s just easier to tap Facebook open and get your snapshot of how the world works. Millions of people do just that. Two, in a world where it seems that we all are building our own camps and fighting more and more with each other, it’s very uplifting to believe that an animal with such a vicious reputation can be so gentle and considerate.
We understand that it’s easy to just accept something that makes you feel better about the world. Unfortunately, it begins to cloud the line between fantasy and reality and that’s where problems happen.
If the caption had started off with “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” or “I wish that…”, but that’s not the case. What’s even more strange is the people who post media like this who have been around in the time of nature documentaries, who probably have seen their fair share of wolves trudging through the tundra, don’t stop to question what they are reading.
Our biggest concern is for young people who are still building up their defences against false or misleading information. Look at it like an animal building instincts in the natural world. You only get so many chances to find out who or what is dangerous and likely to eat you. In our world, especially today, information flies by so fast, it is almost as if we don’t absorb any information. Instead, we are just dumbfounded and inundated and we don’t know how to respond. We are working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen to teens.
So, if you’re a teen reading this, you’re going to get buried in all kinds of stories. You are going to pick which ones you find interesting or relevant to you anyway, what we suggest is that you do a little bit of fact-checking on a story before you commit that story to your world view. At the very least, check Snopes.com before you comment on it, maybe.
The truth is out there, no it is not a matter of perspective, and you have to be constantly vigilant and sceptical about where it actually lies.
When Disclosing Fake News Online
There was an article on this very subject that we read which was the actual inspiration for this article. The title was “You Idiots! That’s Not How Wolf Packs Work!“, written by a lawyer named Jonathan Pollard.
The reason we wanted to add our own two cents’ worth to the discussion was that we have a big problem with trying to help people down the right path by calling them names like “Idiot!” I mean, we get it, it’s… it’s not even an error, it’s a bold faced lie. We totally get it. Yet, what is gained by hauling off and railing against people just because their hearts tugged them in a particular direction? Further, is this any way to bring us closer together? If you tell a person, “Look, Larry, I don’t know if you know this but that’s not correct at all,” maybe even in a private message, and then leave it at that, not only will you save that person the embarrassment, but you will probably earn a person’s respect for dealing with it with a little bit of tact. Being called out for being wrong is very difficult for a lot of people to handle, especially in the age of rapid, instant, and constant connection, so we need to all work with a little more empathy if for no other reason than to be decent human beings.
Four our young friends in the world, we haven’t seen that you’re really into mud-slinging over things like this a lot but you are getting older and you want to believe that you have agency in the world and that you have come along in life on your own efforts. Take it from us that engaging with another person – particularly online – is a touchy thing but it’s a lot easier if you think about the person you are about to talk to before you actually send them that comment.
Whatever you do, try to be as considerate as you can.
Be safe out there.