Debunking Viral Facebook Posts: Part 1

I use Facebook. I’m not ashamed of that. I think it’s a great way to keep in touch with old friends and keep far-away family updated on everything happening in my life (baby girl is turning 1 next month! Expect an onslaught of photos, everyone).

Every now and then, however, one of my friends shares one of those viral news stories/images/articles that just reek of a hoax – you know the ones I mean…those posts that fill your news feed with vague statements and amazing “facts” that have no sources or legitimate citations? I love stumbling on those posts because they give my brain a little workout. It’s like a challenge to see just how many logical flaws I can find in debunking them. The only problem is that most people don’t like being told that they’ve been taken in by faulty logic, so rather than call those people out on Facebook, I’ve decided to post my findings here instead.

I figure that this is relevant to my classroom because teaching critical thought and evaluating resources are two of my primary goals in my lessons, so let’s see if you saw what I saw…

This is a viral post that has appeared in my news feed a number of times:

amotherslove

This one comes in a couple of different versions, but they all make pretty similar claims.

So this is all about pain in childbirth which, as a man, I know nothing about. BUT my wife did give birth to our daughter naturally with no medication (no epidural, no pain meds, nothing…seriously), so I think she’s a legitimate source on the kind of pain that mothers experience during childbirth. I say that just so that you know I’m not downplaying the pain. (;

Let’s look at the first sentence:

A human body can only bear up to 45 del (unit) of pain.

First of all, I never knew pain had a scientific measurement scale. Anytime I’ve ever been in a doctor’s office, I’ve always been asked to rank pain on a 1-10 scale, so this was news to me. I always assumed pain was relative and subjective, which is why pill junkies can have such an easy time convincing doctors to prescribe pain meds. A quick Google search will tell you that, while there have been some attempts at creating a pain scale, no such “del” measure exists. Sad. ):

This could be the end of the argument. If the measure doesn’t exist, then the entire statement is made up, right? Well yes, but let’s keep playing because there are a LOT of problems with this image, and what’s the fun in debunking it so quickly?

The next sentences goes on to say:

Yet at time of giving birth, a mother feels up to 57 del (unit) of pain.

Wait…

The sentence right before says that the human body “can bear only up to 45 del,” so logically, 57 del CANNOT be tolerated by the human body. If a mother can live through up to 57 del in childbirth, then doesn’t that logically mean that the human body can bear more than 45 del?

Also, what does “bear” mean? Does “unbearable” pain (as measured as anything above 45 del) mean that the human body shuts down? Dies? Goes into a coma? Or does it just mean that anything over 45 del just really hurts a whole bunch? This statement is vague, and it literally contradicts the sentence before it.

The next statement:

This is similar to 20 bones simultaneously getting fractured at a time.

When in the history of tragically comedic bodily-harm accidents has a person reportedly broken 20 bones simultaneously? And which bones? The image doesn’t specify, but I think that information is vital to understanding the “fact.” For example, if you had your hand crushed, it could potentially break 20+ bones simultaneously. Is that like giving birth? What about if you had someone take a sledgehammer to both femurs, your left tibia, 6 vertebrae, 3 ribs, and your index and second finger simultaneously? Is that more or less like popping out a kid?

I think that distinction matters because if given the choice, I would absolutely choose the hand-crushing scenario over the full body sledgehammering. And another thing…does each bone have its own del value when being fractured? Like your clavicle might be a 26 while your pinky toe is only a 9? These are serious questions, you guys.

Finally, I want to point out the picture on the right side – the cross section picture:

csection

This is obviously an image of a Cesarean section, during which a mother is heavily sedated and arguably feels very little pain during the procedure (the pain is more prevalent during recovery from what I’ve heard from C-section moms). So why is it there in an image that appears to be discussing natural childbirth? Probably because the original author of the post is mocking your observation skills. (;

I’ll leave you with this: Some basic critical thinking will tell you that the image is a complete hoax. None of it is true except the sentiment that yes, women endure some serious pain during natural childbirth. Why do we need to make up pain scales and fake comparisons to be able to appreciate that?

Stop sharing this one, folks.

And tell your mom you love her. (:

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