Chain Letters are nonsense, even on Facebook

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When I grew up so called chain letters circulated at our school, which one was supposed to copy and forward to five or ten other people; if one complied one was promised good luck and riches, but if one failed to comply and thus broke the chain one was threatened with bad luck and all sorts of disasters and mishaps.

I don’t know whether these things still circulate today, but in this cyber age there is a new variety, here on Facebook. This is what they typically look like:

When you have read everything, please LIKE this so I can put a Thank You on your profile!
 I know that 97% of you will not read the whole story, but my friends - the remaining 3% - will do so.
 Please do this to honour someone who died, or who is fighting cancer, or even has/had cancer.
 Everyone says, “When you need anything, don’t hesitate, I will be there for you”  ... but I bet - without being a pessimist - that only 3% of my “friends” will put this on their profile!
 All you have to do is copy and paste this (don’t share)!!! ... and I am sure that it will be fewer than 25 ...
 Write “done” in the comments, when you did this.
 “Done”, for the Children’s Cancer Fund!

I copied this example from a friend’s newsfeed; but since I am certain that this friend had not written this himself but simply “copied and pasted (don’t share)”, I feel quite free to copy it.

These letters are not always about cancer; sometimes they are about people who lost their parents, or a child, or who went through some other difficulty, but some elements seem to always be there:

  • The attempt to manipulate readers with the suggestion that the majority will not read the post (“the story”) all the way to the end, and that only a minority (“my friends” or sometimes “my true friends”) will follow the instructions;
  • The instruction not to SHARE the post, but to copy and paste it;
  • Often (as in this example) the instruction, to report compliance by commenting; and finally
  • The total lack of any true content, and therefore complete meaninglessness.

Here are a few reasons why this is all unnecessary nonsense, harmful to inter-personal relationships, and especially unworthy of Christians:

  • The lack of content means that participating or complying really does not help anybody: what benefit does the Children’s Cancer Fund have, when these few lines are replicated a few thousand times on Faceboot? How does it benefit those who died of cancer, those who are fighting cancer, or those who have or had cancer?
  • The attempt to manipulate friends (even if they are only FB friends) with a guilt trip harms inter-personal relationships and is particularly inappropriate among Christians.
  • Anyone who follows the instruction NOT TO SHARE the post, but to copy and paste it, inadvertently conveys to her readers the idea of having authored this text herself; in reality she has just plagiarized a text written by a complete stranger passed on by thousands of other strangers who mindlessly followed the instructions and thus demonstrated their intellectual naïveté.
  • Another effect is filling up the internet with endless copies of these content-free rubbish. Granted, these are not huge amounts of data, but there is enough trash on the net, and it is not particularly intelligent to contribute to that by the endless copying of meaningless texts.

I do not, as a matter of principle, participate in these games; if I like post (with meaningful content) and think that others could benefit from it, I share it; this makes clear that it did not originate with me, and it doesn’t take any additional storage space.

Sometimes I will copy a post, for example if it cannot be shared; in that case I indicate the source (using the abbreviation “HT” for “Hat Tip”), again, to make clear that I am not the author, and to give credit where it is due.

There is another type of posts that are a similar nonsensical game: posts, usually of pictures or memes, that say, “Type Amen if you love Jesus”, or “Share this if you love Jesus” — again, these are inappropriate from a Christian perspective, because they are manipulative and typing Amen or not, sharing or not, likeing or not, does not say anything about whether someone really loves Jesus.

And now I am quite sure that the majority of my readers have not read this far, and I don’t give a hoot!

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