Communion Of Dreams

1,001 Ways to Die.
December 10, 2010, 12:14 pm
Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech

Way back in the lost mists of time, someone, somewhere on Facebook decided that they would post something in recognition of friends and loved ones struggling with a disease. Someone else liked what they said, and so in solidarity, cross-posted the same item, perhaps tweaking it just a little. This process continued, and a meme was born. Here is the latest version of it:

Most people have 1000 wishes for Christmas; a cancer patient only has one, to get better. I know 97% of you won’t repost this to your status, but my friends will be the 3% that do. In honor of someone who has passed, is still fighting, or survived cancer.

OK, it could have just been a year ago that this particular meme started. I’ve only been on Facebook for about six months. But I have seen multiple variations of this thing sweep through my ‘friends’, each time with a different disease or cause substituted for “cancer”. My guess, however, in watching the social dynamic, is that this sort of thing has been going on forever.

Harmless? Just a bit of social bonding, people taking a moment to express a concern they have?

Probably. And perhaps it is only because I’m coming up on the anniversary of my father’s death that this latest item rubbed me the wrong way. I know I get sensitive about such things about this time of year.

But I don’t think it is harmless. I think it is a form of emotional blackmail: “Do this or you don’t *really* care about cancer, you heartless bastard.” And because people don’t want to come off as being a heartless bastard, they fall for it.

I’ve considered driving this point home by going through and posting every single variation on this meme I can think of, just to point out the absurdity of the practice. There’s cancer. Diabetes. Heart disease. Violence. Child abuse. Automotive safety. Terrorism. Et cetera, et cetera. I could spend the whole next month doing nothing but posting status updates which are variations on this theme.

Of course, all it would do is just alienate everyone who knows me. And that pretty much defeats the purpose for my signing up for Facebook to start with.

But that is exactly my point – why I don’t think these things are harmless. Because they prey upon the social lubrication through which the site functions, leeching away real emotion and connectivity. In some ways, this is an artificial lifeform, the online equivalent of a parasite.

Jim Downey

6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thank you for saying what so many of us are thinking!

Comment by shadowalking

Thanks – so often people think I’m just being a curmudgeon about such things.

Of course, sometimes they’re right . . .

Comment by James Downey


Comment by Sarah CD

I don’t “feel” any emotional blackmail. Didn’t give a thought to what someone would think of me irregardless if I copy/pasted or not. Usually I don’t copy/paste most things.

Comment by Elizabeth Olow

Elizabeth, just curious: then what was your motivation? Just a moment’s consideration of the matter would lead me to think that it would just be ignored, so what is the point? I’m honestly curious about the mentality here.

Comment by James Downey

My daughter receives many of such forwards, but as texts, and many are very graphic and disturbing. It is upsetting to her and to me. She automatically deletes any forwards now and then asks said sender to stop sending them. If they do not then she blocks their number.

Comment by Celeste

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