Monday, October 10, 2011

Facebook and the Placebo Effect

What I'm about to talk about - indeed, this will probably be the closest I have ever come to ranting on this blog - is likely to not make me popular with certain of my acquaintance.  But I keep running across this issue on Facebook, and I'm tired of not expressing my annoyance.  In fact, I was asked to write about it.  If I offend anyone in the process of airing my grievance, all I can say is that I'm sorry.

Facebook is, in largest part, great.  I use it to keep up with family members I haven't seen in years and friends who have moved away.  I also use it to keep up with local news, favorite charities, and other sources of information.

However, I find it a source of irritation when certain kinds of statuses get posted.  There are three sorts that particularly get under my skin.

The first, which is arguably the least galling, is the 'proud parent' type.  If you use Facebook, then I'm sure you've come across a status resembling at least one of the following.
  • "It's SONS' Week!  Repost this if you have the best son(s) on earth!" 
  • "It's DAUGHTERS' Week!  Repost this if your daughter is your best friend!" 
  • "Why yes, I DO work, because I AM A MOM!  I'm a chauffeur, a maid, a teacher, a psychologist, and more!  Post this as your status if you are a PROUD MOM!"
Call it sour grapes if you want; I'm not a parent, for reasons that were largely not of my own choosing.  So these annoy me, but I also recognize that they're pretty harmless in their way.  There's nothing wrong with being proud of your kids.

The second kind of status that agitates me is a bit less innocent.  For the last three years, someone has instigated a 'game' on Facebook where women make mysterious posts that are supposed to keep everyone wondering.  In 2009, we were all asked to post the color of our bras, allegedly to raise awareness for breast cancer.  (Exactly how this was supposed to raise awareness for anything when half the population of Facebook didn't know what was going on, I still don't understand.)  Then last year, we were supposed to say "I like it on the [horizontal surface of your choice]" based on the current location of our handbags.  This year, however, we were supposed to announce that "I'm [x] weeks and I'm craving [y]!" using a system based on our birthdays. 

This made me so angry that I don't even have words.  My own medical condition aside, I have a few friends who, for one reason or another, are having issues with fertility.  So asking them to post a fake status which implied that they had finally succeeded in conceiving a child was, in my opinion, heartless.  Fortunately, this one was not nearly as popular as the previous two, and I'm hoping that maybe the game has died once and for all.

It's the third kind of status that annoys me which I consider to be the most insidious.  This is the kind that gets worded rather like this one, which I've invented for the sake of farce:

One out of every ten children is born without eyelids.  Can you imagine how hard it must be to go without eyelids?  90% of people won't care enough to post this, but I did and I hope you will too, to raise awareness for those who must endure the tragedy of no eyelids.

Usually these are about cancer, or child abuse, or something along those lines.  Now, I'm not saying that the causes which these statuses are meant to support aren't worth the effort, because they most certainly are.  What I'm saying is that there is no effort, here.

Let's say I repost a status about leukemia.  All of my friends already know that leukemia exists, so it's not like I'm enlightening them on that score.  I'm not earning any money for a leukemia charity by posting that status.  I'm certainly not curing anyone of leukemia by posting that status.  What, exactly, am I accomplishing?  Absolutely nothing.  I'm just making myself feel better, like I've done something to help the cause when in fact I've done nothing of the sort.  It's a placebo effect.

For bonus aggravation, most of them - like my fake status up there - conclude with a guilt-trippy little message about how a lot of people just don't care enough about the cause to lend it their Facebook status for however long.  That's not fair.  I do care about these causes; I just don't care to be held emotionally hostage by the internet.

Folks, if you're passionate about a cause and you want to do something about it, that's awesome.  I fully support that.  Heck, my blog is full of ways to do something.  Sign a petition, join a fundraiser, buy a membership in an organization.  And then use your Facebook status to tell us about what you are doing.  But copying and pasting a tired status that doesn't actually serve a purpose?  No.


  1. On a similar note to the last one, the ones that say "only my friends will care enough to repost. Are you my friend or not?"

    Utter bullshit.

  2. I pretty much agree with you on every point here. Honestly I tend not to like any copy and paste status, 1) because it's un-inventive, 2) all the reasons you stated, and 3) because it just feels like e-mail spam for facebook.


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