I am one very relieved man today. My car has not exploded despite warnings that in the case of hot weather, vehicles with a full fuel tank will explode just like that, as Tommy Cooper might have put it. I have not yet developed cancer because of refilling plastic bottles with water and then drinking them. And our prime minister, Theresa May, has not reminded us that British children are “owned by the state”. Where did I learn these falsehoods? On Facebook of course.

I make a point of not believing everything I read on the internet, or anywhere else if the truth be known. And anyway, you can check all these things out with a little research and by using debunking sites such as the excellent Snopes and Hoax Slayer. The exploding fuel tank story hailed from Pakistan and it was years ago. The plastic bottle story doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Theresa May never said that children are “owned by the state”, but still people tell me that she did.

It has been suggested that people have been banned from displaying the flag on St George on their vehicles or at their houses, often for fear of offending muslims. This is a little more sinister because a cursory check usually concludes that the so called offended muslims don’t actually exist and the stories originate from far right Facebook groups and websites.

There is a serious point to all this: a lot of people believe everything they read in the newspapers and on the internet. This is how Breitbart, the Canary, Infowars and of course the Daily Mail work. Tell a lie often enough and there will be enough people who actually believe it. I read the other week that the local council around here has a department that goes around removing anything vaguely patriotic. This, by the way, is the same council that cannot afford to provide adequate social care or to fill in holes in the ground. In short, the muslim stuff is racism, pure and simple.

Facebook (other social networks are available) is by and large a good thing. It can be a fun shared experience. But like so many other aspects of life there can be negative connotations. I read things that patently are not true, I am informed about criminals who are on the loose, often hundreds of miles away, as if somehow I might know them. Are they suggesting that I have a dodgy choice of family and friends? I am told about how I can win a camper van or a free holiday just be sharing a post and in virtually every instance I am being sold a pup. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Certainly not on Facebook.

I’m off to drive to Asda soon. If my car blows up on the way, perhaps Facebook was right after all. I rather doubt it, though.