Every day we come across dozens, if not hundreds, of Facebook memes, ideas that are spread quickly on
social media, such as those pictures with words on them. These memes are supposed to be sharing
“useful” information—from toothpastes that can kill us to breakdowns of a candidate’s political history,
to recaps of news stories. These memes don’t just fill our newsfeeds, they often inform our lives. This is
a huge problem because very often, the information they contain is either outright false or taken so out
of context, it’s completely useless.
Let’s take a look at a couple popular memes that are totally untrue.
This one sounds pretty scary. Toothpastes with only chemicals in them? Yuck, who wants that? But
there are a couple of things wrong with this meme. The first problem is that these colored squares on
toothpaste tubes have nothing to do with the ingredients; they’re simply a mark that tells a machine
where to cut the packaging. The second issue is the idea of chemicals automatically being bad.
Technically, all substances are chemicals—including water. So while the word “chemical” conjures
images of mad scientists with bubbling beakers in a lab, the truth is that unless it’s a toxic chemical, it’s
probably not going to harm us.
2. Lucky Charms and Paint Thinner
In this meme, concerned citizens point out that Lucky Charms cereal contains an ingredient called
trisodium phosphate—which is the same thing used in paint thinner! No one wants their kids eating
that! Many people reached out to Lucky Charms and demanded an explanation—and they got a very
reasonable and true one. You see, trisodium phosphate is a water-soluble salt. When you have it in
really large quantities, it can be used to clean things. In small doses, like what’s used for Lucky Charms,
it’s completely harmless and FDA approved. If that doesn’t convince you, think about it this way—many
people use vinegar and baking soda to clean tough grime from floors and bathrooms. Yet we also
consume these items, albeit in much smaller quantities, in baked goods and salad dressing.
Research Your Memes!
It’s not a good idea to believe every meme you read. Instead, if you find one with information you deem
important, you should research it on sites such as Snopes.com and politifacts.com. Find out the details
of the claim made on the meme and critically analyze the actual facts. More often than not, you’ll find
the meme is either completely untrue or seriously misrepresenting facts.