Back when I first started exploring the Internet in early to mid 90s, the closest the world came to things like Facebook, Ello, Instagram, and G+ were newsgroups on Usenet. Actually, come to think of it, Facebook, Ello, Instagram, and G+ are really nothing more than gussied up newsgroups with some new whiz-bang features thrown in and better targeted advertising.
But back in my day…
In the early days of the Internet, if you wanted attention, you hammered out a crazy whack funky email and sent it to all your friends. They in turn would send it to all their friends and so on and so forth. Eventually it would wind up my inbox where I’d debate just how much I wanted to taunt the Internet gods by deleting it. These emails started out innocuously enough: forward this email to 10 people and you’ll get rich, Bill Gates wants to give you money, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic secretly run the world from the p-funk mother ship, forward this! Eventually, though, they started to get nasty.
The nastiness started out simply enough: Forward this or you’ll have bad luck. Of course, that didn’t go too far enough, so the web trolls kept upping the game until your inbox was a mass of “If you don’t forward this email to 10 people you’ll be forever lonely and a curse will be brought down on your head that will make all your hair fall out and your genitals shrink. Also, the electrical wiring in your house will crawl into your veins and shock you a lot.”
It was like getting email from North Korea.
When I got my first email account (firstname.lastname@example.org), I got about a dozen of those a week. Usually they came from well-meaning, if slightly deluded, friends. Like a good friend, I kept that crap going and dutifully forward the emails. At first.
Then I got a really nasty one that promised butt cancer for everyone in my family and a whole host of other maladies like a plague of locusts o’er the land and decided I was done with chain emails. Rather than forward the email, I hit reply to all and ripped into the sender. Turns out she was a friend of mine and was just trying to cover her own butt from cancer and locusts. I had to apologize rather profusely, but we’re both locust free after all these years so I guess I broke the power of the email.
It seems to be human nature to do this kind of stuff. Nowadays there are less of the chain emails promising endless riches and eternal punishment. In their stead we get fake news stories pushed by friends because the stories sound good, endless streams of “like this and something cool will happen”, “share this and it’s worth, like, 20 prayers”, and the ever-popular “I want to see who’s paying attention to me. Like this or you’re off my friends list”. Of course one of the funner games to play is to put up a status message like “I’m getting a monkey!” or “I just slaughtered a whorehouse!” and see who responds. The respondents then get told they have to put their own silly status up and the cycle of violence continues.
Why is this bad? Well, I’m friends with a bunch of people who might actually get a monkey or slaughter a whorehouse. Granted, that last one is less likely, but I wouldn’t put it past some of them. Now I’m left wondering, do I say, “Congrats on the monkey!” or “That whorehouse was a wreck, anyway!” or do I quietly click Like and hope no one notices I just did the least interactive thing possible?
Usually, I go for clicking Like. But every now and then I’ll write something like “Don’t get caught spanking that monkey!” (I have a pretty immature sense of monkey humor) Then – BAM! – I get that direct message that says I have to pick from a list of boring statuses to put up.
Well, just like with the email that promised butt cancer and locusts, I think I’m done playing the little games. But I’m not going to ignore them; I’m just going to make my own rules. The next time someone tells me I need to pick from a list of embarrassing statuses that I “have” to use because congratulated someone on their monkey, I’m gonna get schwifty and make up my own status.
If it happens to you, feel free to pick from this handy-dandy list of witticisms and freakery.
- Does anyone know how to get blood out of a clown suit?
- I am the basset hound king!
- Trump trump trump diddily ump.
- My ass has just been voted best in Macedonia!
- I like the pretty lies.
- I just stole William Shatner’s pants!
- Got schwifty!
Or you could just do what I did with that email that promised butt cancer and locusts: Ignore it. Smile, nod, and do whatever you were going to do anyway.
Got anything you’d like to add? Comments are always appreciated.