Chain Letter Madness

Remember chain letters? You'd receive one in the mail, unsolicited, and it would request that you make ten copies of it and mail them to people you knew. There were incentives for doing so, some positive and some negative. If you complied, a truck would arrive one day in your driveway and deposit an immense pile of gold, silver, and precious stones. If you blew off the request, then the pile would consist of something else. Chain letters used manipulation in order to propagate themselves. Chain letters still live today. They just rarely come by snail mail anymore. Instead, they're a common phenomenon on Facebook. Someone posts a message in his Facebook status which ends by requesting that his friends likewise copy and paste the message in their Facebook statuses, thereby getting more Facebook friends to copy and paste, and so it goes. The message concludes with something like, "I wonder which of you will take the time to show you care," or, "I'll know from this which of you actually read my messages," or something along that line. No arm-twisting there, eh? I don't mind requests to copy and paste. But I hate the baggage that usually accompanies them, which translates as follows: If you don't do what I ask, then (choose one)

(a) you're not really my friend

(b) you have no heart

(c) you don't really love Jesus

(d) you'll be revealed at last as the miserable, self-centered person you really are

(e) all of the above, you bottom-feeding, booger-eating wad of human scum

I don't believe most people who post such stuff really feel that way. They're just blithely cutting and pasting something that someone else wrote without bothering to edit out the stink. But the stink still stinks, and I'm not about to involve others in anything that makes me hold my nose. But let's say that, not wanting to hurt a friend's feelings, I do copy and paste his copy-and-pasted Facebook message. Now other of my friends, not wishing to hurt my feelings, do the same. Pretty soon, the message I've copied and pasted resurfaces in another friend's post. Not wishing to hurt that person's feelings--wanting her to know that, yes, I'm really her friend, and I stand with her in her intense concern for endangered freshwater barnacles because I care, really care, deeply--I once again copy and paste the same message. In short order, it surfaces again from several other Facebook friends, and I repeat the procedure accordingly. Meanwhile, the message continues to spread in ever-expanding ripples through Facebook circles, and countless other people are responding in similar fashion. After a while, we're all so busy copying and pasting out of loyalty to our friends that we barely have time to attend our codependency support groups. Dark, raccoon-like semicircles deepen beneath our eyes. Days go by between showers. Then, finally, someone short circuits and sends out another message that says, "STOOOOPPPPP THE INSANITY!!!" Everyone copies and pastes that message too, even though this time there's no request to do so, and eventually we're all let off the hook, and, breathing a sigh of relief, we reach for a beer. That is why, if you include me in a Facebook chain letter, you can count on me not to forward it. The follow-through is exhausting and therapy is expensive. If you agree--and it goes without saying that anyone who doesn't lacks the intelligence, patriotism, and basic decency of slime mold--then take a moment to forward this post to everyone you know, and request that they do the same. I'll be curious to see whether you truly care. I have ways of finding out, and the truck driver knows your address.

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