…and that’s a GOOD thing.
Take a look at this popular Facebook status update…
Every person has 1000 wishes. A cancer patient only has one wish, to get better. I know that 97% of Facebookers won’t post this as their status, but my friends will be the 3% that do. In honor of someone who died, or is fighting cancer – post this for at least one hour….
Now look at this one….
Today I’m going to pause to remember all those who are suffering from cancer, as well as their friends and family who are affected by this terrible disease.
…or this one…
Please remember my friend _____, who is battling cancer right now. Feel free to repost if you know someone else that might be concerned about him/her.
The first one is trite and passive aggressive. The last two have similar messages and concerns, and the second even encourages reposting, but to me are much less offensive. There is none of the guilt-inducing “you can’t be my friend if you don’t copy me exactly” sort of language. To me the last two messages are much more effective.
Danielle Foster, a contributing writer at Suite 101, describes this type of Facebook activism very succinctly:
The purpose of raising awareness about an important cause is to inspire people to reflect on the issue. The hope is that after awareness is raised, action will follow. Do status memes promoting awareness accomplish action, or are they merely providing short-lived entertainment and self-validation?…
…What this whole message is really doing is fishing for validation under the cover of supporting cancer victims. If you are the poster’s true friend, you will re-post the message because being that person’s true friend makes you a great person who would not dare dis-honor cancer victims, or the poster’s friendship with you, by not re-posting. You are this person’s friend aren’t you? You don’t hate cancer victims, do you? You had better re-post.
This passive aggressive style of Facebook status has become a meme unto itself, with seemingly infinite variations. There’s the soldier meme…
A normal person has 1,000 wishes. a soldier only has one, to come home safe. I know 97% of you won’t post this as your status, but the 3% that do are my friends. In honor of someone that died, a wounded warrior, or who is fighting for your freedom, please repost in their honor.
…and its variant…
WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA…Please remember that only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you…JESUS CHRIST and the AMERICAN SOLIDER. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom……If you agree…copy and paste in your status…GOD BLESS ……THE USA !!
Well, actually, I don’t agree. I’m sure the many firefighters, police, and various emergency service providers who have had colleagues die in the line of duty would also disagree. Despite that nagging error, the implication of this message is that if you don’t agree, you’re un-American and not a Christian if you don’t re-post this.
And speaking of Christianity, there are these jewels…
I love my savior god. 80% of people wont post this as their status. but 20% will because they’re are not scared they will get teased.
Why do we sleep through Church, but stay awake for a 3 hour movie? Why is it hard to pray, but easy to swear? Why is it hard to re-post a Godly status, but easy to re-post the mean ones? Why can people worship a celebrity, but not God? Gonna ignore this? Afraid to get laughed at? The Lord said, “If you deny me in front of your friends, I will deny you in front my Father.” Re-post this if you believe Jesus is savior!
I believe in Jesus Christ and have accepted Him as my personal Savior. A facebooker has challenged all believers to put this on their wall. In the Bible it says, if you deny me in front of your peers, I will deny you in front of my Father at the Gates of Heaven. This is simple. If you love God and you are not afraid to show it cut and paste this into your status.
These get progressively worse, and I find the last two particularly offensive. The implication is that if I don’t copy and paste this drivel, I’m going to Hell. Uhm, really?? So, the god you worship is so petty that if I don’t copy this particular update, I’m consigned to eternal damnation? If that is Christianity, then I certainly want no part of it.
The point is that there are much, much better ways to express these sentiments. My niece Julie and her husband Jarrett do an excellent job of using Twitter and Facebook status updates to express their faith. My sister-in-law Cynthia uses Facebook status to raise awareness about Haiti and other areas of concern in her ministry. In each of these cases the sentiment is heart-felt, specific, and, more importantly, original. They don’t have to copy and paste something to express how they feel. The other is just pure unimaginative laziness.
People who participate in these types of Facebook memes justify doing so because it “promotes awareness.” Again, really? Someone inclined to re-post something like this was probably already familiar with the problem, so its effectiveness is negligible. If you really care, go beyond the laziness of simply re-posting and volunteer, or donate money, or SOMETHING more tangible than a status update.
The act of copying and pasting status itself is not necessarily evil or lazy, and there are times when it is appropriate. If used to spread news about a SPECIFIC event or concern, it can be effective, as seen with Twitter updates surrounding the events in Egypt, etc. In one of my examples at the top of this page the poster says “feel free to re-post…” The difference is that there is none of this guilt-game to try to make someone repost.
BreaktheChain.org has a great set of tests to run against these types of memes. These were originally written for e-mail chain letters, but are applicable to Facebook and Twitter updates as well. They suggest checking the meme for Expiration, Focus, Integrity, Reliability, Sponsorship, and Integrity. If it fails on those merits, it’s probably not something worth forwarding or copying.
So, please, join us. Think for yourself. Be discerning. Be original. Become part of the 80% who won’t post this (although I’m afraid that percentage is far too high right now.)