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This week’s hot gossip was about swabs that shove up your nose.
You may have heard about the new website launched by the U.S. government Tuesday to allow people to order free at home coronavirus testing. Everyone. Moms texted their children. Friends shared their thoughts in group chats and then in other group chats. Perhaps your garden clubWe have.
There seemed to be a simple explanation as to why a government website received the attention that a new Beyoncé album might: We love free stuff, and many Americans have wanted home Covid tests but couldn’t easily find or afford them.
However, people who study human behavior have told me that there may be more. The test kit website may have gone viral for some of the same reasons that a Black Friday sale can spread quickly: It makes us feel good to tell others something that may be helpful — especially if the information feels like secret knowledge — and we tend to trust people we know more than experts.
“We often see things that go viral and think it’s random luck or chance, but there are principles that make things more viral,” said Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On.”
Dr. Berger explained that he was struck by the human tendency to share information about test kits with others.
The “secret” menu at the fast food chain In-N-Out Burger is not a secret. Instead, Dr. Berger said, it’s clever marketing that capitalizes on the zings of pleasure that we get — whether we’re aware of the strategy or not — from passing on what seems like hidden information.
That’s also how gossip spreads, and why we were inclined to tell friends where we bought toilet paper when it was hard to find.
We’re also more likely to share information about a topic that arouses fear or other strong emotions. And of course, when products are exclusive or we believe that they’re scarce, it makes us more eager to get in on the action. All those boxes are checked with the coronavirus testing kits.
Jessica Calarco from Indiana University is a professor of sociology. She also said that people are more likely to base their decisions on the actions and opinions of people they know or think are similar to them. Social pressure — like hearing about the coronavirus test website repeatedly from friends and family — can be more influential than official health recommendations or advice from doctors.
News about the coronavirus test website “was primarily spread person-to-person in a more informal way, creating social pressure to participate and inspiring trust in the system as a whole,” Dr. Calarco told me.
Harmful rumors, conspiracy theories, and other falsehoods can spread for similar reasons. We’re more inclined to pass on news that scares us, and we like to feel in the know and as though we’re helping. Misinformation researchers warn about rumors that seem to come from “a friend of a friend,” because we’re more likely to trust a claim that appears to come from our social connections.
This week was a reminder of how the same tendencies and behaviors that help spread gossip and sell hamburgers can also persuade millions of Americans to make a difference for the public good.
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The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Information
Tip of Week
Secure your online accounts (really, this time)
Brian X. Chen, The New York Times’ consumer technology columnist, has some advice for you on how to increase your digital security.
This week, President Biden shared his prediction of Russia’s imminent invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine’s computer networks were the victim of a serious cyberattack. It’s unclear what this all means for the United States, but security experts have warned that Ukraine had been a testing ground for Russia’s cyberattacks, meaning the same attacks could eventually reach Americans.
That’s all hypothetical right now, but it’s another good reminder to beef up the protection of your online accounts. It is best to ensure that your online accounts have two-factor authentication. This adds an extra step to verify that you are who and what you claim to be. Even if a password is lost or stolen, they cannot pretend that they are you.
In a previous column, I discussed various methods to set up two-factor authentication. An authenticator app is one of the best options for strong authentication.
Here’s an example of how to set up an authenticator app with Facebook:
Go to your phone’s app store and download a free authenticator application, such as Google Authenticator or Authy.
Then, on Facebook’s website, go to your security and login settings. Click “use two-factor authentication,” and then click “edit.” Choose the option for an authentication app as your security method. Follow the onscreen instructions.
You can now log in to Facebook using the authenticator app. The temporary six-digit code that was generated for your account will be displayed. To log in, you must enter this code.
It can be difficult to set up two-factor authentication for all your online accounts. But after you set it up the first time, it’s a breeze. Prioritize sensitive information like your online banking accounts.
Before we go …
Congress is running out of time Time is running out for legislators to pass bills to put guardrails on America’s technology giants, my colleagues Cecilia Kang and David McCabe report. Democrats support legislation that targets the tech industry in greater numbers than Republicans and could lose control of Congress this autumn.
What happened to your Instant Pot?: NPR’s Planet Money podcast followed two nursing school students who line up each week at a discount store to buy and then resell merchandise that people bought online and returned. Be prepared to hear the sounds of competitive shopping and learn about the complexity and cost of the products we regret purchasing.
The people who don’t buy anything but want to end their dependence on Facebook. “Buy Nothing” groups that offer free bowling balls or leftover pickle juice to their neighbors are among Facebook’s most avid communities. The Verge reports on the efforts of some groups to create their own online spaces apart from Facebook.
This is a huge accomplishment
Canada: A woman was reunited with her cat 12 year after it disappeared. Twelve years!
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Source: NY Times