If you have an account on Facebook (like everyone else between the ages of ten and eighty), you undoubtedly receive a number of requests to “like” or “share” a page in your daily news feed. If not a direct request, you’ll see the page being liked or shared by your buddies.
As far as I can tell, these request fall into one of three categories:
1. Share if you don’t think people should punch Down Syndrome kids square in the face.
These requests tell touching stories that pull at your heart strings. They often involve protecting the innocent and/or vulnerable–like puppies, kitties, or special-needs kids that are being bullied. Or they deal with loving your country, your kids, or your pets. Or thanking Veterans for their sacrifices.
What they all have in common is making you feel like you’d have to be a sociopathic monster not to support them.
2. Share This if You Can Guess the Answer in Under a Minute
These involve some kind of puzzle: a crossword, a math equation, a riddle… It tends to be fairly simple, so people can guess it pretty quickly and feel smart. And then they want to share their cleverness with their friends.
While the first type appeals to your sense of morality, this type appeals to your ego… See how smart you are? Tell your friends!
A bizarre variant of this type is: Show Everyone How Old You Are. It calls itself an “Age Test” and usually involves a picture of some dated technology or childhood memorabilia. I assume the lure must be the thrill of recognizing something other people might not recognize, as well as the shared experience with other people in your age range.
3. My Parents Said I Could Finally Get a Winter Coat if I Get A Million Likes
This final category includes the appeal to complete some worthy goal if enough people show support. The lure is that with the simple click of a button, you get to feel like you have helped accomplish something admirable. You are industrious, involved in the community, and a team player, and with a simple tap of your thumb.
These request feel much like the chain letters of yore , which would promise great rewards or terrible luck, depending on whether you choose to participate. The question is: where so they come from? Who starts them?
An even bigger question, is what is this supposed to accomplish? You may be against bullying, sure, but how exactly is clicking “like” on an anti-bullying blurb going to end it? Is there a panel if experts who wield the power to end bullying forever scanning Facebook requests to see whether the population supports it? Are they monitoring instances of bullying and checking with Facebook to decide whether or not to intervene (“Hmm, there’s a kid in a wheelchair about to be tipped over… Let’s see whether Facebook users disapprove”).
At least the third category of requests claim that your “like” will result in something concrete. A million requests will supposedly get someone to stop smoking, or further some other worthy cause…
Unfortunately, many of them are completely fraudulent. Photos of kids with diseases are posted by people with no connection to the kids, when really they are farming for personal information, giving you potential viruses, or otherwise conducting scams. These photos cause great pain to the actual families of the people in the photos.
Scammers are horrible. They prey on your good intentions and vulnerabilities. Be careful about liking or sharing posts when you have no idea who originally threw them into the Facebook feed.