A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth has its boots on. —
Abraham Lincoln Shakespeare Winston ChurchillMark Twain
TL;DR: the Internet is full of myth, truth is buried in truthiness, objective reality may itself be a convenient fiction, we are all lost souls wandering in a desert of fabulation and mystery, but Usain Bolt’s coach is not a steroid pusher. Also, how do you decide which links to share?
Yesterday I tweeted a link which wasn’t true, about Usain Bolt and steroids. This shouldn’t be earth-shattering news, that a factual basis isn’t a prerequisite for virality, but I wanted to deconstruct my mistake to learn from it.
Most of the replies I got to the tweet were of the “ugh, how depressing” variety, because it played to the sense that this man’s abnormal accomplishments were unnatural. However, I was contacted by David Epstein of Sports Illustrated after an umptyzillion people had retweeted the link:
When asked, David was kind enough to provide a citation to an NBC story: Linking of Usain Bolt to Admitted Steroid Dealer Completely False.
(Note that the 4:1 testosterone ratios, the doping cycle, and other background on performance enhancing drugs in the original article are true; it’s the specific claim about Bolt’s coach that’s fiction)
I’m guilty of the Original Sin of the Internet: mistaking truthiness for truth.
A greater sin, however, would be failing to learn from mistakes. So, what did I do, how can I do better next time, and how will I make it right?