5 Stories Often Shared on LinkedIn That Have No Basis in Fact

LinkedIn is just like any other social media network. It isn’t free of fake news. So you need to be careful that in sharing to your network of contacts, you aren’t inadvertently contributing to the spread of misinformation.

Here are 5 Stories Often shared on LinkedIn That Have No Basis in Fact:

1 The Eagle’s Rebirth

I first encountered this story at a company where I used to work. The story was printed on posters scattered all over the office. You know, something shared to inspire the troops. I have since seen versions of it shared on both LinkedIn and Slideshare.

The story goes something like this…By the time an eagle reaches the age of 30 or so, its physical condition has deteriorated to the point that survival is difficult: its talons lose their flexibility and cannot properly grip prey, its beak becomes dull and bent, and its wing feathers grow thick and heavy…The bird then retreats to a mountaintop, where over a five-month period it sequentially breaks off its beak by banging it against a rock, tears off its talons, and then plucks out its feathers, each stage producing a regrowth of the removed body parts that “renews” the eagle and allows it to live for another 30 to 40 years.

Usually, this story is told in the context of preparing a company for a great transformation…that sacrifices have to be made in order to achieve success, even if it means giving up familiar ways of operating to prepare for the future…blablabla. You get it.

Well, a story with a lesson, no matter how well intentioned, is nothing more than a parable, a fable, if it has no basis in fact…just like this story.

You see, anyone who understands biology or even any 12-year old who enjoys Animal Planet will know that eagles are raptors. They survive by hunting down and devouring live prey. If an eagle doesn’t have feathers it can’t fly. If it can’t fly, it can’t hunt. If it has no beak or talons, it can’t kill anything. And the eagle that can’t do any of those things over a period of months…it dies.

Didn’t anyone ever wonder why they they never see any photographs or video footage of bald, beakless, clawless eagles? It’s because they don’t exist. The average life span of an eagle is around 30 years. After that there’s no magical, renewed second life.

Industries that need “transformation” will have to find a new source of inspiration. 

2 What Wolf Packs Teach Us About Leadership

Here’s another story from the animal kingdom. This one usually comes with a photo of a wolf pack walking single file through the snow.

The description with the photo sounds something like: In a wolf pack, the first 3 are the old or sick, they set the pace for the entire pack. If it was the other way around, they would be left behind, losing contact with the rest. 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, deciding the direction. He sees all of the pack.

Members of the pack move according to the elders’ pace, help one another and watch over each other.

This story is usually received with comments like, “Animals are amazing,” “Wonderful teamwork” and “These are great lessons in leadership.”

Yeah, sure. Nice sentiments about team dynamics…but this is nothing more than textbook anthropomorphization. Wolf packs are not organized this way at all.

Some scientists even object to the whole oversimplified notion of a single “alpha” wolf, as this role often shifts from one pack member to another, depending on the circumstance. Although most agree, the strongest animal is usually in front, to clear a way for the rest.

That should be good news for most people. Would you really want to work for a boss who considers himself the “alpha”? A creature that dominates others, whose self-appointed role is to mate with all the females? What kind of a jerk would that guy be?

3 Bullfighter Has A Change of Heart

This photo appeared this week once again on my LinkedIn feed and was the inspiration for writing this article.

The photo is described as the moment Colombian bullfighter Álvaro Múnera collapsed mid-fight. It is supposed to capture the instant he came face to face with the cruelty of bullfighting, and from that day forward Munera became an advocate to end bullfighting.

If you have the attention span of a goldfish and would rather watch the video of this article, click here.

But according to the fact-checking website Snopes, the real reason Munera left bullfighting was that he was gored by a bull at the age of 18, resulting in spinal cord and cranial injuries that left him paralyzed. This isn’t even a photo of Munera at all but another bullfighter altogether.

It’s a very nice story about contrition and redemption. But it turns out this bullfighting story is just..bull.

4 Nokia CEO Breaks Down During Press Conference

This photo is supposed to show the moment Nokia’s CEO, during the press conference announcing the company’s acquisition by Microsoft, suddenly breaks down and weeps. Through the tears, he is quoted as saying, “We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost.” The rest of the Nokia senior management team also join in and start crying.

The photo is usually accompanied by dire warnings about how successful companies should never become complacent, how disruption is just around the corner in any industry.

Now I’ve seen this shared a lot and the origin of this myth is credited to LinkedIn itself, as the story seems to have been penned by a LinkedIn user.

I also take this one a bit personally because I was once a proud member of Nokia’s global marketing team for nearly four years. And anyone who knows Nokia from the inside would immediately have issues with the photo with regard to its accuracy.

First, of all, the CEO of Nokia when its mobile phone division was acquired by Microsoft was Stephen Elop, who had a full head of hair.

The man in the photo is actually Steve Balmer, then CEO of Microsoft, who would not have been in a crying mood at the time.

I also know from former colleagues who were present during said press conference that the incident described never happened.

So I hope we can finally give this bit of fake news a rest.

5 Humans Have the Attention Span of Goldfish

This last one is not only widely shared on LinkedIn, this so-called “fact” is repeated in every…single…conference about content marketing or social media. If there was ever an example of an untruth repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact, this is it.

The story refers to a study where the human attention span has gone from 12 seconds to eight seconds, one second below the attention span of a goldfish. This idea has been carried in one form or another in some of the more reputable news entities: TIME, the Telegraph, the Guardian and the New York Times.

Now, please, just stop and think for a moment. If human attention spans end after eight seconds…how could anyone count to ten? How could a human being read a book, write a PowerPoint presentation, develop a business strategy, drive a car or design a rocket ship?

How would you even be able to find your way out of the room you’re in right now?

And yet this demonstrably untrue fact has become so widely embraced and repeated.

So please…if you hear someone talking about this overused myth, you can assure him his attention span is greater than that of a goldfish. I’m not sure about his IQ, though.

What to do?

So now you’re wondering: how do I know whether or not a story is fake? Well, just like with everything else you read on the internet…First and foremost, think before you share. Consider the source. Ask yourself whether or not you find the source credible. Be wary of stories that have no source.

Or better yet, post more original content. There’s no substitute for writing or producing your own content. If you’re a blogger, original content is essential for your SEO authority and helps ensure higher result rankings. Most important, it helps establish your personal brand, your credibility as an industry leader.

Let’s have a conversation about how I can improve your B2B social media strategy! Follow or connect with me and let me show you how to grow your brand and reputation through LinkedIn.