Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Own Information Literacy Lesson

the woods right now

This week I got burned on Twitter. Here's what happened:

1) I read about how the Dalai Lama has a twitter account, on a blog I follow called iLibrarian.

2) I looked at the Dalai Lama's twitter account, noticed there were approximately 13,000 followers (usually a good sign of legitimacy), and read a couple of tweets about freeing Tibet and trying to reach a younger audience. Sounded possible and interesting, so I propagated the information with a tweet of my own.

3) Turns out it was an impostor: The real Dalai Lama contacted twitter admin, who swiftly took the site down. (The original is not there any more now -- you can check.)

4) I tweeted a correction of my own & have been feeling like a complete sucker ever since.

So over the past few days I've been pondering this chain of events, and it's no comfort at all to think about those other 13,000 suckers (they'd probably say they knew he was a fake all along), and that the whole situation has been corrected now. In the classroom, I'm regularly responsible for showing students how NOT to do exactly what I just did -- make the mistake of assuming everything online is true. Oh, the irony.

The fact is, usually I'm pretty savvy about this sort of thing. (I mean, the sheer INDECENCY of pretending to be the Dalai Lama on the internet is appalling, right? Is nothing sacred, literally?) But really, nobody's immune from being fooled. It happens to librarians, even the most earnest & well-meaning ones. Maybe this is the hardest information literacy lesson of all...


  1. Teachers don't need to be perfect. :-)

  2. If you think you're confused now, just wait until the next Dalai Lama, when Chinese authorities will try to create a rift in Tibetan Buddhism by recognizing their own reincarnation as the sole legitimate Dalai Lama. This has already happened in the case of the Panchen Lama. So get used to the idea of being spoofed by a phony Dalai Lama. The Chinese government introduced its regulations on recognition of reincarnate Lamas in the fall of 2007.
    John Roberts
    Co-author of "Freeing Tibet"

  3. Don't feel bad about it. Good teachable moment if you share it with students.

  4. A good psych. experiment in the making --

    Just *when* is one led more by what you 'want' to beleive, than what objectivity says 'should' be beleived? (Who isn't vulnerable to that one?)