Recently, my not-as-tech-savvy-as-she-thinks grandma received a text from a friend that said something like, "I got poked in the neck with a needle on the MTR and immediately felt dizzy, but luckily I left the train and sought help from staff." At the end was an instruction to spread the message, which my grandma obediently did - and she was not the only one.

The message went viral on WhatsApp and was posted on Facebook pages and forums, along with warnings to beware of strangers, especially needle-wielding ones with accents from mainland China on Hong Kong's subway.

It turns out the message had only been forwarded by the friend, not written by her, but why anyone would believe such a claim without following it up with the person in question is beyond me. Nevertheless, this kind of message is frequently circulated by people with little common sense or new-media literacy.

A friend's relative once forwarded a message to their family group warning of a Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) outbreak in Hong Kong's Tsing Yi district and urging people to not set foot in the area. When the relative was assured the government would issue a warning in the event of a genuine outbreak and was urged not to spread false rumours, she defiantly argued that she had acted only out of concern for her family.

A reasonable excuse for the spreading of unnecessary panic? I think not. A simple search on Google would have determined whether Tsing Yi really was in the grip of a viral outbreak or not. Yet time and time again, people exercise little judgment and forward all manner of tittle-tattle to their contacts.

The only thing more irritating than that is the excuses used to justify such recklessness.