a woman scrolling on an iphone

Shutterstock (Licensed)

The rise of the ‘did you know?’ tweet

We’re all looking to connect over universal thoughts and experiences, and these viral tweets act as a form of confirmation bias. 


Tiffany Kelly

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 20, 2022   Updated on Aug 21, 2022, 1:55 pm CDT

Daily Dot Web_Crawlr

This Week On The Internet is a weekly column that recaps the most pressing online discourse of the week and runs on Fridays in the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.

Let us crawl the web for you. Subscribe to web_crawlr here.

This Week On The Internet

Last week, a woman tweeted out a warning to her followers: “apparently random strangers are walking around and asking people to smell their perfume but it contains drugs that’ll put you to sleep.”

The tweet received more than 6,800 likes and 4,800 retweets. However, as people pointed out in the replies, the perfume drug story is an urban legend that has been debunked many times. Snopes wrote about it in 2000, stating that “it’s hard to think of any substance that could produce the instant unconsciousness described here.”

People sharing urban legends as fact on social apps isn’t new, but the tweet did make me think about the kinds of viral tweets I’ve seen appear in my Twitter feed lately: tweets about human condition, dating, health, and more that appear to offer sage wisdom but often contain unsubstantiated claims. Some of them are horror stories. Some of them are silly tweets that make sweeping generalizations about a group of people.

“Apparently now you can just log on and tweets like, ‘close physician friend tells me more and more people coming in with little critters in their ears — some having burrowed all the way into the brain. Concerning’ and reliably get like 40k credulous likes. Concerning,” tweeted writer Ben Flores (@limitlessjest).

Maybe it’s because we’re more than two years into one pandemic while still fumbling the response to new outbreaks, but tweets that are scary or shocking do big numbers.

There’s also a rise of “did you know?” tweets, usually framed in a way that make one symptom or behavior an indicator of something else. This can be seen in tweets about “trauma response,” e.g. “X is actually a trauma response.” Tweets and videos about trauma are now ubiquitous, leading to discourse about the word losing its meaning.

Why it matters

There’s a lot of misinformation on any platform. Viral tweets about why everyone in a certain generation behaves in a certain way, or how an activity you do daily is actually harmful can influence even the most wary users. We’re all looking to connect over universal thoughts and experiences, and these viral tweets act as a form of confirmation bias.

But fact-checking a viral tweet is important, even if the tweet is coming from a so-called expert. In the case of the tweet about perfume that contains a powerful drug, the first reply is from someone asking for a source of the information. The woman’s response? “I saw it briefly on TikTok.”

Like what you are reading? Sign up to receive web_crawlr, a daily newsletter from the Daily Dot, in your inbox each morning.

Share this article
*First Published: Aug 20, 2022, 6:00 am CDT