Internet Chains

Internet Chains

There has been crap on the internet for as long as it’s existed. Anyone who’s ever used hotmail or yahoo knows the cycle of spam email, paying for new spam filters, and the emergence of new spam the filters don’t catch. Email chain-letters have followed the same format since the dawn of the interwebs, as have the methods for avoiding them; change email addresses regularly, keep your email address a secret from those friends that just can’t resist hitting the send button, create a ‘junk’ email account for all the websites that require to you to sign up for anything.

As social media seeps further into our culture, the same dregs of the internet begin to flow into other channels. On Facebook and Twitter it’s difficult to avoid spam and nearly impossible to block it, even if you report every spam message you see. And some people consider ‘spam’ to be more than just annoying advertisements. For some people ‘spam’ includes those annoying Internet chain-letters that one of your friends inevitably find charming.

I try not to use this space for rants too often, but my feeds have been so full of crap lately, I just can’t resist commenting on the messages that drive me crazy.

The Plea for Sympathy
EG: Bimmy was in a tragic accident which caused him to lose one eye, one arm and one leg. Big Corporation will give $1 for every time you forward this email/like this post/share on facebook, twitter, ect, ect… Take the one second to do this because if you don’t, you’re a heartless wretch!

Or an intelligent person, since these messages are always scams. Big Corporation has no way of tracking how many times this message moves across the internet. Especially via email. Unless there’s a virus imbedded in the message coded to report back to the original sender, no one is ever going to know how many inboxes that message hits. And if it includes a virus, you can be certain Big Corporation wasn’t the origin of the message.

People will argue that Facebook does include a means by which to track likes, shares, favorites, ect, in the form of the counters which appear beneath each post. That is true, but anyone can save that picture to their hard drive, upload it to a different account and start the like/share counter fresh. Those two posts aren’t linked together unless someone manually @links the original poster in their new upload. Even if they do, unless Big Corporation was the initiator of the original post, chances are they aren’t even aware of whatever message is floating around cyberspace.

My guess is these messages are designed to generate attention, a play on sympathy people have for an injured child or battered animal (especially the ones that include photos). The originator likely just wants to see how much attention they can generate and, sadly, they generate quite a lot. All it takes is a quick Snopes search for ‘will donate for every‘ to reveal a long list of hoaxes. Chances are if the first 5-10 results are all hoaxes (and not just hoaxes but often out of date hoaxes), it’s pretty safe to assume every message of that nature is a fake.

This also makes me skeptical of giveaways which require you to like/share/favorite something. In all likelihood, the originator is just trying to generate traffic for their page.

The Like if/Share If
EG: Like if you hate cancer! Ignore if you love Cancer!
Like if you love your grandmother! Ignore if you want your grandmother to die in a horrible fire!
Like if you support our troops! Ignore if you’re a terrible heartless person!

Unlike the previous category, these messages are at least harmless. Annoying, but harmless.

Maybe I’m the only person who thinks my Facebook feed is for, you know, finding out what’s going on in people’s lives. Messages like this seem rather pointless to me. Who doesn’t hate cancer? Seriously? Does posting a picture like this really offer support to someone suffering from cancer? Does it really make the troops feel like they’re supported? Probably not. Maybe you have a cancer survivor or a friend with a family member in the military on your FB feed, but I think said people prefer personal, heartfelt messages over two second shares of something someone else made (just a guess).

But the real reason these messages annoy me is the second half; the insinuation that if I don’t take the time to share mindless drivel on my facebook page, I’m a terrible person. Really? I’m a horrible person because I didn’t click the ‘like’ or ‘share’ button and annoy more people with something I consider largely pointless? My grandmother knows I love her without me having to post the silly graphic. In fact, I think she’d be more offended by the second half of the statement than by my refusal to post it on my wall where she may not see it anyway. If you really love and support someone, just tell them. Tell them to their face or over the phone rather than on facebook too, because I guarantee that means more. (Or in your blog ;) Love you Grandma!)

Of course, every now and then someone comes up with a witty response to this (Like if Bacon, Share if Bacon, Ignore if Bacon), and I chuckle and almost forgive people for making these.


The Just Plain Factually Incorrect
I don’t have an example for this one because there are just so many. In fact, I rarely stop to read these kinds of posts because I know they’re BS. Yet sometimes I feel compelled to point out things which are factually incorrect to prevent the perpetuation of false information (isn’t that Snopes’s job?).

The latest incarnation of these scams is the privacy notice people have been passing around Facebook since it became ‘a publicly traded entity’. While misunderstanding how copyright law works is a common mistake, again it only takes a quick trip to Snopes to prove these claims are false. And it’s bad enough people couldn’t shut up about the end of the world coinciding with the end of the Mayan calendar, but did no one ever stop to consider the Mayan calendar didn’t account for daylight savings time or leap year (meaning it ended several months before December anyway?) And did they really have to post pictures of the Aztec calendar while they were talking about it?

Call me a cynic, but I’m skeptical of pretty much everything I read on the Internet until someone provides me a reliable source. (Something I read on the Internet was fake? ZOMG!) I’ve even seen people share missing child notices only to amend them a few hours later saying they were fake. A friend once pointed out she’d rather post it in case it’s real than ignore a real missing child notice, and I have to give her that one. But who the heck posts a fake missing child report?! Really Internet? REALLY?

Don’t get me wrong, for all my complaining, I love to see the occasional witty picture in my Facebook feed. I love the links my friends share. I’m lucky; 9 out of every 10 of my friends on Facebook aren’t guilty of any of the above (the occasional mistake doesn’t count as annoying). But there’s always that one person who can’t resist hitting the button every time they see something shiny, making me headdesk as I click the ‘hide’ button twenty times.

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