Life’s full of unanswered mysteries… as well as answered ones that we’re simply not yet aware of! With how busy we are in this non-stop, hyper-intense life in the digital age, it can be quite a challenge to pick up something as simple as a book to learn something new. So for those of us who are strained for time, learning new things about history and science through bite-sized tidbits of information on social media becomes the most comfortable approach.
Enter WTF Facts, stage right. The popular Twitter account shares multiple intriguing facts about the world every single day, and they’re great for anyone who’s got a curious mind and a penchant for learning new things. Some of these facts are so bizarre, your first instinct might be to doubt their veracity. However, that’s pretty much the point of the WTF Facts project—showcasing niche trivia that pushes the limits of our knowledge. Don’t forget to upvote the facts that you learned for the very first time as you scroll down, Pandas.
Oh, and in case you’re still fired up to learn some new and interesting facts about the world when you’re done with this list, you should definitely check out Bored Panda’s previous articles about the WTF Facts project here: Part 1 and Part 2. Happy reading!
Bored Panda reached out to entertainment, pop culture, and lifestyle expert Mike Sington from Hollywood to hear his opinion on media literacy, checking the (un)reliability of sources and claims, and our shortening attention spans. He shared some indications that a source, article, or fact we find online might be fake.
“Red flags to watch out for that a claim may be fake: it’s outlandish, it’s too good to be true, you haven’t seen the claim anywhere else, you’ve never heard the source, the source isn’t reputable, you can’t find two other sources making the same claim, your gut tells you, ‘this can’t be true,'” Mike listed some of the things we have to be aware of.
According to LA-based pop culture expert Mike, the popularity of social media means that the reliability of information has taken a hit. We need to be extra careful about what sources and claims we trust. “The rise of social media has decreased the reliability of information because misinformation can spread so quickly before it can be corrected,” he told Bored Panda.
The expert stressed that even a simple Google search of a source or fact is a “great way to double-check reliability.” You should remain skeptical if you’re unable to find any additional evidence or sourcing. “Do this and think before reposting or you may be contributing to the problem. Amplification doesn’t make a claim true or accurate,” he highlighted the fact that we should do the responsible thing and not spread false rumors.
Mike also shared the sources that he trusts the most. Among them are: Associated Press, Reuters, and The New York Times. “They employ fact-checkers and editors that ensure the information they post is correct. They’re basically doing the research and homework for you,” he said. “There are literally too many online sources to list that can’t be trusted and should be avoided. Anyone can basically post anything they want… proceed with caution,” he warned.
“Our attention spans have been reduced to mere seconds at a time because that’s the way information and entertainment is fed to us now. People get tiny bite-sized bits of news by scrolling a Twitter feed, they entertain themselves by scrolling quickly through Instagram and TikTok. It’s creating a habit that doesn’t have to be,” Mike said. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t fight back, in order to broaden our attention spans.
“The good news is there’s plenty of long-form entertainment and news available, you just have to seek it out. I believe the benefit is worth it. I’ve discovered it improves your ability to focus, it’s more calming, you retain more information, and it gives you a more balanced and nuanced view of the world.”
Started up quite recently, WTF Facts has created a solid following for itself since its inception in May 2020. The WTF Facts project has already grown to over 146k followers who can’t wait for the latest weird and interesting trivia. That’s roughly a hundred new followers for each tweet that the account has posted.
However interesting these double-checked facts might be, it’s always a good idea to have a bit of skepticism whenever you read something online. Having a scientific approach and doing some of your own research is always a good idea because it helps develop your mind and also starts forming an approach that helps weed out any fake news or outright lies you might encounter while trekking through the vast wilds of the net.
One of the moderators that helps manage the r/AskHistorians subreddit previously told me that we first have to determine whether the sources we’re reading are reliable or not.
“Unless you have a lot of spare time on your hands, it’s not going to be possible to check every historical claim you see on the internet. Even then, a lot of knowledge is locked in academic libraries and behind paywalls, so can be impossible to access anyway. When looking at ‘mindblowing’ facts on the internet, a healthy sense of skepticism is essential—as is looking at the source. Is this being claimed by Twitter user @fakefacts420 or a Professor of History at the University of Oxford? Are you reading this on a university website or an email your nan has forwarded you?” they told Bored Panda during an earlier interview.
The moderator shared with Bored Panda that some people ‘weaponize’ the most well-known historical conspiracy theories in order to “exploit past events to push a political point in the present day.”
These conspiracies can be, well, pretty much anything at all. “Whether this is people who want to fly the confederate flag arguing that the US civil war wasn’t about slavery, right-wingers claiming that the Nazis were socialists or people with anti-immigration views trying to claim that the Roman Empire fell because of uncontrolled immigration.”
Meanwhile, Joseph M. Pierre, a professor of psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, explained that fighting back against misinformation is a difficult, ongoing battle.
“Countering misinformation is a huge challenge and is often ineffective when it only amounts to presenting accurate information as an alternative to false beliefs. In my opinion, understanding conspiracy theories and other false beliefs is best understood as a byproduct of mistrust and misinformation. If people don’t trust authoritative sources of information, they aren’t going to replace their false beliefs with facts and we’re not going to be able to agree on what facts are. That’s where we often are these days,” Professor Pierre told Bored Panda.
The professor said that so-called ‘inoculation strategies’ are interventions that can, theoretically, “beat misinformation to the punch.” Though, unfortunately, it’s often the other way around in reality, with misinformation beating accurate information to the punch. Especially on the internet where information and rumors spread incredibly quickly.
“If we’re going to talk about education, what’s really needed is a retool from the bottom up, teaching people about analytical thinking, data reasoning, and media literacy starting in grade school. We’re 30 years into the internet now and I’ve never seen any evidence of this being part of education in America. It is in other counties,” the professor said.