Joyce Colon woke up on Monday, October 31 to discover she had gone viral.

The North Carolina native wrote an article about stealing puppies from a shelter on a website called React365. In just three days, the post garnered more than 80,000 Facebook shares, and thousands of likes on Twitter. Her friends were texting her nonstop, and several internet commenters had already proposed marriage.

The only problem? The story was fake.

React365 allows users to create realistic-looking news articles in order to “prank” their friends, but the rest of the Internet wasn't in on the joke.

Colon wrote the story as a joke that Friday, after getting off work at the Fayette, North Carolina Air Force base.

joyce colon story
photo: OnSizzle

She’d seen her friends sharing fake news article they wrote on React365, and Colon thought it'd be funny to see how realistic she could make an article — so obviously, she chose to write about dogs.

“Everyone knows I’m obsessed with dogs,” Colon told Revelist. “I was like, ‘Alright, I think everyone would believe that I stole 24 dogs from the shelter, so let me write this up really quick.”

Colon thought the article would get a couple like from friends, at most. In fact, the article generated zero shares in the hour after she posted it. She resorted to asking a couple friends to share it for her, as part of the joke.

But when she woke up on Monday, Colon says, “it was just exploding.”

The first hint of virality came on Sunday night, when a friend sent her a screenshot of a Twitter account that had shared the article.

The tweet had over 1,000 likes, and commenters had already deemed Colon a hero. Colon said she found the news “crazy." But she quickly became concerned that people would believe the story was true. She took to Facebook that night to post a disclaimer.

“I didn’t want people to get the wrong impression that I was a liar or I just wanted this to go viral, because it wasn’t my intent at all,” Colon told Revelist. “So I just thought I’d put it out there. I made [the Facebook status] public just so anyone who goes to my page sees that it’s fake, and it’s not real.”

But that didn't stop Twitter users from taking the story and running with it.

The heart-warming — and totally fake — story took over social media for hours. One tweet even racked up over 10,000 likes. Colon says she's gained more than 2,000 Instagram followers since she published the story.

Colon says she finds the whole thing “pretty funny.”

A photo posted by Joyce (@joycecolonn) on

When the post first took off, she immediately checked with her employer to make sure she wouldn’t get in trouble. But once her boss gave her the all-clear, Colon decided to laugh the whole thing off.

“It kinda makes me sad because now I feel guilty that I got people's’ hopes up, but I mean it’s still funny that people are so gullible,” she told Revelist.

Her parents however, feel differently.

“I feel bad for my mom,” Colon said. “She sees all the trolls on there saying mean things, so she’s going after everyone and trying to be mean back … My dad is calling like, ‘Is everything ok? I’ve seen the mean comments. Are they getting to you?’ I’m like, ‘Dad it’s ok, I don’t even read them.’”

In fact, Colon says she’s stopped reading most of the comments entirely. Her boyfriend and his friends will occasionally engage the trolls of Facebook, but Colon lets their comments roll of her back. There are simply too many to read.

Fake news stories like Colon’s are actually a major problem for Facebook these days.

In response to accusations that Facebook’s “Trending” section was biased in favor of left-wing causes, the company made major changes to its news verification process this summer.

In late August, Facebook laid off its entire editorial team, and replaced them with engineers. The editors were tasked with carefully verifying the stories that Facebook algorithms selected for the “Trending” section. The engineers, however, were told to approve any trending topic that linked to at least three recently posted articles, or at least five recent public posts.

An audit by The Washington Post conducted this September found at least five “indisputably fake” stories and three “profoundly inaccurate” stories trending over the course of the month. This included stories touting the new iPhone’s literally magical features, and claiming that 9/11 was an inside job.

Seeing as almost 50% of American adults use Facebook as a news source, the reports have generated considerable concern.

Colon agrees that the proliferation — and acceptance — of fake news is a problem.

A photo posted by Joyce (@joycecolonn) on

If you just scroll to the bottom of her article, she points out, there is a disclaimer saying the piece  is fake, and directing users to create their own.

“It just blows my mind that there are people out there who don’t look too far into the story and just believe everything they see on the internet,” she told Revelist. “... It just makes me feel bad for people who really think everything they see is true.”

Some people even reacted violently to learning her story was fake, calling her an attention whore or saying she should have rescued the dogs for real. But Colon sees a silver lining to all of it.

“It’s kinda cool that people are going crazy over the fact that it’s about dogs,” she said. “It makes you realize how many people in this world are dog-lovers, and how many people actually want to help if they had the opportunity.”