This Wednesday night, someone in the U.S. will win $1.5 billion dollars through the national Powerball jackpot — so it's no wonder that people are running out in droves to buy tickets at their local gas stations and convenience stores. Of course, like with any hot topic, the Powerball jackpot has become the subject of some memes — but I urge you to be careful, because as I learned myself, the viral Powerball meme is wrong.
What Powerball meme, you might be wondering? Well, young ones, there is a meme going around on social media, stating that if we all just divided the jackpot amongst every American, we would solve all of our country's problems. The case for this is made via a math equation that seems to prove that everyone will get around four million dollars. Spoiler Alert: this is wrong.
Online hoaxes are nothing new. Remember those Sarah Palin photos going around the internet in the early days of the 2008 election, where her face was photoshopped onto the body of a woman holding a gun and sporting a very skimpy American flag bikini? As I'm sure you know by now, that photo was fake — and it's just one example of the internet's taste for fake news about current events. Or how about that story out of South Korea, about a woman who was sued by her husband over getting plastic surgery and not telling him? That story was also very much faked.
But everyone totally bought it! The reason those stories, as well as the Powerball one, end up being taken seriously is because many of us can get confused online, mistaking professional-looking graphics or reasonable-sounding arguments for something authentic. But when held up to closer scrutiny and subjected to research, these fake internet facts fall apart.
For example: this Powerball meme.
If we were to look at the Powerball meme and do some math, we would be able to quickly debunk the ridiculous notion that if the jackpot was equally divided, everyone would get 4 million dollars. I'm not even talking complex calculus here. I'm talking about division that can be done on a calculator app, squarely located on your iPhone at this very moment. You don't have to do any in-depth research here — you would just have to press a few numbers to get the truth.
1. The Meme
Simple, to the point. At first look, this all seems to check out. I can see why people might get confused. This meme plays off the fact that most people don't really like math, which I understand. I personally don't like math. Math upsets me. But hating math still isn't an excuse for sharing this meme.
2. I Did The Math
If we were to give everyone a piece of the jackpot, each person would only get $4.30. That's right. Not millions. Not even hundreds. We would not solve poverty. Most importantly, we aren't even considering the fact that taxes exist — this is before taxes are taken out. Lottery winnings are taxed like regular income, so they'd take quite a bite out of this jackpot.
3. More Explanations
Here is PhilyD explaining the meme's failure in the best way possible. You can watching his entire video here.
So next time you see something on the internet, remember this advice: Nothing on the internet is real! OK, that's not true. But remember to double-check before you take something as fact.