And Amen to that

Amen (Arabic: آمين‎‎; Greek: ἀμήν; Hebrew: אָמֵן): so be it.

Users of Facebook (and possibly other social media platforms) will surely have come across posts depicting a sick or disabled child or an abused animal where the poster encourages them to ‘like’, share, and ‘Comment “Amen” if you want to put an end to cancer/think she’s beautiful/ believe animals have rights too.’ Sometimes, they’ll also claim that these actions equal a certain number of prayers, or that Facebook or another company will donate money to the cause. Others even claim ridiculous things such as that the child (if it is a child) will only be given life-saving treatment if a certain ‘like’ target is met. Isn’t that all sweet and lovely?

Um, no. No, it’s not. It’s cynical and exploitative, and these pages are usually set up by people with a much less compassionate motive than they make out. The more likes, shares, and comments a post gets, the greater dissemination Facebook gives to the next one. If the page creator, by playing on people’s emotions, gets 100,000 likes, his or her next post will be sent out to a lot more people than that. And if that post gets 200,000 likes, the subsequent one will be pushed out to an even wider audience. And so on. At which point, the page has a guaranteed distribution and can either be used for whatever nefarious and scammy-spammy purpose it was set up for, or sold on to someone else who can use it to push their product, without the hassle of having to build up a following and increase their popularity honestly and gradually.

Moreover, the photos are rarely of what they purport to be – it’s easy enough to find a suitably heart-wrenching image online and then claim it shows something worse than it does.

broken-nose

This is me a few years ago. I tripped over the cats when I was feeding them and they got a bit over-excited. I careered into a wall and broke my nose. But that’s boring. It might raise a smile, or an ‘oh dear’, but it’s not enough to play on people’s sense of outrage and make them share the picture. It’d be much better, from a like-farming point of view, to go for something more emotive like ‘This woman’s son beat her up because she wouldn’t give him money for drugs — like if you want to stop domestic violence, share if you think drugs are a problem in society, and type “Amen” if you think she’s beautiful.’ (For the record, I haven’t got a son, just cats, and I keep them adequately supplied with catnip.)

My dad — what’s he got to do with anything? you’re asking — knew about none of this. He died ten years before Facebook came into existence (and getting on for twenty before I broke my nose).  It’s fairly safe to say, though, that he’d have been unlikely to fall for such manipulative tactics — or to have lost any sleep worrying about how he could stop others from doing so. He was a down-to-earth Yorkshire man with a philosophical outlook on life. Whatever life threw at him he would either catch or deflect with a comment of ‘Oh aye?’ (that’s interesting, but what’s it got to do with me?) or ‘Aye well’ (can’t be helped, so be it). Even when the Macmillan nurse told him his cancer was untreatable and palliative care was all that remained, his response was ‘Aye well,’ followed by ‘Is there any cricket on’t telly?’ – with limited time at his disposal, he wasn’t going to miss out on watching the test match!

Kid’s got leukaemia and will die without Facebook shares? Adolescent has a 30kg tumour making breathing difficult but doctors will only remove it if they’re paid in Facebook likes? Elderly donkey has to work in 50-degree heat despite having laminitis of the hooves, but you can make everything better if you type ‘Amen’?

Amen. So be it. Can’t be helped. Shit happens. Aye well. Amen.

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/21/tech/social-media/facebook-like-farming/

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