I remember the first time I received an article online that promised money if I forwarded it to everyone I could. If I did, Bill Gates was going to send $1,000 to myself and every recipient. SO HURRY UP, dummy! Forward, forward, to everyone you’ve ever met! Forward yourself, forward back to whoever forwarded you! THERE IS NO LIMIT AND THERE ARE NO RULES.
My heart was racing. I did not comprehend $1,000. For God’s sake, with that money, I could buy a Fender Stratocaster — or two! So I did it. Oh, did I forward. Afterward, I ran downstairs to tell my babysitting Grandma what I’d done. As the words poured from my mouth, I remembered to be skeptical. At that time, I was probably eleven or twelve years old, still learning to be cynical and altogether doubtful of others. You know how growing up goes. So, I concluded the account with, “You know, just in case it’s actually real.”
My cheque never came. But, incidentally, I did buy one Fender Stratocaster. It just wasn’t a gift from Mr. Gates.
Presently, what troubles me are posts that I see on Facebook which encourage people to share heart-breaking and often butt-clenching* photos of sick or maimed people or animals.
(*Butt-clenching. Don’t you know what I’m talking about? When you see something gross, stand too close to the edge of a cliff, hear a terrifying noise? Well, it is a legitimate phenomenon, sometimes called the “pucker factor” by saucy pilots. When you’re unnerved by something, you clench your butt.)
These posts claim that when a person shares these photos on Web sites or through e-mail, the sharing is tracked, and some wealthy entity will donate money to the subject of the photo– usually a young child or a pet– relative to the number of shares.
In some cases, this logic works, such as with petitions. Signatures accomplish something, and sharing encourages signage. However, it is pretty easy to discern what is legitimate, and what isn’t.
So the part that I can’t understand is: who would make a post like this, and for what reasons? This creator knows that sharing this picture isn’t going to give a sick boy an operation or save a dog from an abusive home. The only perceivable benefit to sharing these photos is to raise awareness about the issues the present. But if exposure is the goal, then why include a faulty call to action? Why make the bold claim that sharing (or forwarding) these things will change anything?
What seems to follow, instead, is a virtual freak-show and general dyspepsia. (That’s a fancy word for stomach complications, but kudos if you already knew that!) The pictures inspire horror… and, I suspect, accomplish nothing more than just that. Again, if exposure is the goal, then implying that sharing has a positive effect might only placate people, make them feel as though they’ve ‘done enough’ for the issue just by sharing a grisly photo and its accompanied text.
This post comes before research. I’ll do some snooping online and see what kind of hypotheses I can form!
all my love,
[See my Follow-Up here!]