The transitory city of Mumbai is on hold today. Thanks to heavy rains due to cyclone Ockhi, schools, colleges and many offices declared it a holiday. Only as a precautionary measure to make sure discomfort is at a minimum to the public. From Kerala to Gujarat, the weather has taken an unprecedented turn along the western coastline of India, with lashing rains and strong wind.

However, this chaos is nothing compared to the virtual havoc due to the cyclone of false information on social networking sites.

My social networking pages today are overflowing with misinformation about rains in Mumbai. People are weaving tales of apocalyptic hailstorms and blown up houses. Various hashtags like #CycloneOckhi and #MumbaiRains, are facing this onslaught of false information.

People are circulating an old video from a cyclone in Sri Lanka, and accusing poor Ockhi for the shown damage. Thankfully a hoax busting website has already warned people about this video.

Another video being circulated is that of a bunch of cars battling what looks like ice cubes from God’s personal freezer. Another myth slaying website has cleared that it is an old video from Turkey.

If we believe in every piece of news which circulates on the social media, then UNESCO is obsessed with our country. It keeps bestowing titles like world’s best national anthem, best constitution and best pink coloured currency on us. Also, if you don’t know yet, that funky looking ten rupee coin is now invalid according to the RBI.

Such hoax messages are like a plague. They are present on every messaging group and networking site. They infect seemingly rational people and kill their brain cells. As a result these people end up sharing such messages without even cross-checking their validity.

The misinformation which many of us share out of concern can give rise to public panic. It can create unnecessary mass hysteria, and make it difficult for the authorities to separate fact from fiction. The governing bodies already have to keep up with rising levels of population and pollution when preparing for such disasters. Add to that the ‘dependable’ weather department, whose warnings and forecasts might as well come from a babaji on top of the Himalayas. It is no fun under such circumstances, when you have to keep clarifying what is true and what is false every few minutes.

So, as responsible citizens of this nation, it is our duty that we do not contribute to this mayhem. Checking every fact before sharing it with public and friends is essential.

It will help us avoid major embarrassments and maintain the pseudo-intellectual profile that we all have built up painstakingly, by throwing names of Nobel laureates in our reading list. So before our carelessness costs someone his or her life, it is better that we discipline our urge to instantaneously share whatever catches our fancy.  It only takes a few minutes to check the true source of a post. Better spend time doing that, rather than spending it later apologising to everyone, including the authorities.

Also read: A Twitter Thread Celebrates Badass Women Through Time

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