Did you know dog owners are more likely to have psychopathic tendencies than people who own cats? And rabbit owners are apparently most likely to be kleptomaniacs.
You didn't know that? That's probably because I just made that up. No, I haven't gone crazy and decided fake news is the business to be in, I just want to illustrate a fact, an actual fact that is, not one I have just made up.
The fact is a lot of people, nearly 60 per cent of us according to some surveys, don't read articles past the headline. They don't read the article, but they do react to it. They share it on to their social media, type lengthy diatribes in the comments section and discuss it at great length in the bar or over the fence with their neighbour. The problem is, without having read the actual article, they are often sharing something they might not actually agree with, arguing with a viewpoint that wasn't actually expressed or believing facts that weren't the ones presented in the article.
Shocked? I'm not. Mainly because, as someone who has written plenty of headlines in my time, and the articles to go with them, I am often on the receiving end of those angry comments.
Last week, I wrote an opinion piece saying I believed te reo Māori should be taught in all New Zealand schools, adding it is a beautiful language. If you read the article rather than just the headline, you would know I also said I am an immigrant to Aotearoa, having moved here from England two decades ago. From the emails, phone calls and messages I received, many people appear not to have read the article however.
How else can I explain the vitriolic phone call from the caller who told me, "you can teach your culture at home, my kids don't need to learn it" or the email from the reader who thought I should "stop forcing your Māoriness on others". Not to mention the person who took the time to write and post a letter imploring me to "stop pushing your language and traditions on those of us who aren't Māori ".
If I was to be forcing my culture on you all, you would find yourselves dining on pasties, enjoying a merry dance around a may pole and perhaps indulging in a spot of Morris dancing or drinking a pint of Scrumpy, not learning Māori in schools. And with no offence to my Devonshire heritage, trust me, I think you are better off with poi, kapa haka and raranga over my pasties, Morris dancing and may poles (although I might just keep the Scrumpy, it isn't half bad actually).
So does it matter? That people read headlines but don't always read the article? Yes, it does.
When people retweet, share or comment on articles it means they get seen by more and more people. Which in turn, means more and more people blindly share, retweet or comment on the article again, but this time influenced by any comments they have seen on it (you know, from the people who haven't actually read the article, only the headline). This cycle continues on and on, and defines what becomes viral and what news fades away into insignificance (also known as the second page on a Google search).
If we all actually read the articles, we can share more wisely, comment with intelligence not ignorance and all do our part in shaping the narrative around us. If we don't, if we blindly continue to share without reading then we have only ourselves to blame when fake news takes over the internet entirely.
To the four out of 10 readers who statistics tell me are still reading this, thank you - you are a dying breed apparently.
If you will excuse me however, I have a sudden hankering for a glass of Scrumpy while I wait for the furious letters and emails to start coming in from the angry dog owners.
Disclaimer: Editor Ilona Hanne is not aware of any real scientific studies showing cat owners are better than dog owners. She does however, own a cat not a dog. Make of that what you will.