They beg to be shared. Not like online magazines wanting their content read by more people. Not like suspicious sites, either, the ones trying to mask their Facebook buttons behind the ‘x’ you use to close an annoying ad. Nor like those annoying bastards who hold articles ransom until you claim them with a share.
These guys are people like you and I, ordinary people you could have for neighbors, who want to prove a point. And they’re asking for your help to do it! They’re just like you and they have noble intentions: they’re doing it for the kids! Kids need to learn the dangers of the internet. Right?
- “Please share this. I want to prove to my kids how fast and how far a photo can go on the internet.”
- “Please share this. My kids didn’t believe this would go viral. And for all you parents of teenagers, I feel you.”
- “Please share this, it’s for a school project.”
(quoted from memory)
Soon the photo or irrelevant video attached to that plea goes viral. I know it does, because I get to see it in my corner of the world on my Facebook feed (or on a friend’s feed – I can recognize the perplexed squint by now and I know when to ask what they’re reading). By the time it gets to me, the photo/video/picture has tens of thousands of shares and likes, it’s been all over the world, it’s… it’s… it’s a video of a guy explaining how you change a toilet roll. Or a photo of a kid holding a paper saying “Please share this, to prove how viral something can get”.
I get it: we’re touched by the honest plea and by the mention of kids. With a single click, we can participate in a grand demonstration of the evils of this thing we use every day. We can show the young and uninitiated, in a fairly harmless fashion, that making a mistake on the net can cause you a lot of harm. However, the photo/video goes viral because some people decide to make it viral. It’s a demonstration of the power of the internet, it’s true, but the internet doesn’t always work that way – nor does it usually work that way (unless you’re a star).
Therefore, it isn’t really a demonstration, but a lie. It doesn’t say anything about what ‘the internet’ would do, but it says a lot about what ‘the internet’ thinks: it thinks that it’s dangerous, that people share mistakes, that you can never escape that one thing you once did, that the world will know. Which isn’t exactly true. Anybody googling you might find out about your horrible mistakes, but people on the street and casual acquaintances will probably be blissfully unaware of that something you once posted when you shouldn’t have.
Also, pardon me for saying this, but “Please share! For the kids!” people are attention whores who shout at the world to notice them. And for a second, the world does. Isn’t that a bad lesson to teach kids?