Oh, don’t get me wrong, I pump out the same neverending stream of self-serving Public Relations because I’ve figured it out: Facebook is a contest, and the only way to win is to try and sound more interesting than everybody else. You grab as many acquaintances as you can then spend the remainder of your days proving that they’re fools for not following you around all day in person.
One of the most annoying memes in support of this ridiculous competition lately has been the “I’m morally superior unless you do what I tell you” one. You’ve probably have seen an example sometime in the last few days:
On the face of it it seems like a nice idea… “It’d be nice, aww, yeah, let’s all kumbaya and have a great big endorphin sandwich and hug and take X together”.
…except there’s one problem: the implication is that if you DON’T post this text as your status, you DO think people should die and go broke. In fact, you’re a goddamn MONSTER if you don’t post this! Holy crap, better get to the batcave Bruce Wayne and get your fucking Facebook updated right away!
So it’s an implicit threat. “Do X or Y is true”.
Second, let’s look at the basic failure behind this message: “By doing X, you will help Z.” The text suggests essentially that if you post this as your status, you will, in some way, make medical-insurance-magic happen. I can only guess that the people participating in this believe at some level that somewhere, there’s a master control screen for Facebook surrounded by Insurance Industry executives.
In this control room, the insurance dudes are watching the screen up front with growing terror as hundreds and hundreds of status messages switch over to this.
“My god”, one of them breathlessly intones to another (in the fantasy), “they’re in open revolt! What do we do?” And the tie-wearing guy he’s talking to sets down his big cigar and responds, “We pray, Mister HMO. We pray.”
In truth, though, this is just a lazy form of slacktivism. This is one of the most dangerous types of self delusion for the burgeoning protester/true believer/self-righteous espouser of The Truth. The delusion that he/she/it is doing something to make the world better without having to actually do anything.
“By jove”, the original author thinks while stroking his neck beard, “this status message shall storm the gates of the world and light a fire of indignation that shall burn these streets clean!” Confusing metaphoric imagery aside, this has the same erstwhile goal as any revolutionary. But instead of having to actually go out and take down whitey, all that happens is that the chickens cluck loudly for a few minutes, then forget about it.
What’s the actual result of the status message going to be? Really? Well, probably nothing. A lot of heads around the world nodded, a bunch of furious copy/pasting took place, but in the end, everything goes back to status quo. But the situation is actually WORSE than it was before, because a bunch of people feel like they did something and can now move on to the next item in their inbox. In the word of one internet philosopher, “FFFFFUUUUUUUUU-”
Finally, and perhaps most damning at all: It’s sanctimonious. I won’t waste a lot on this, but seriously, fuck you guys. Yeah, I get it. You feel strongly about this. But just shuuuuuuut up already. There’s got to be a way you can jerk yourself off about how awesome you are without implying a severe lack of moral fortitude in everyone else who failed to think of doing this first.
So let’s recap:
- It’s a threat.
- It’s actually worse than useless.
- The people who do it think it proves they’re a better person.
Yeah, Facebook is a curious game, and it can be fun. But if this is the way the contest is shaping, it seems as if the only way to win is not to play.