Monday, February 18, 2013

Believing Anything

There's never a shortage of people who are willing to believe almost anything, no matter how nonsensical, if it supports a previously held worldview or sometimes because it tugs at the heartstrings. Without getting into petty politics, this is seen from extremists at both ends of the political spectrum, from the "birthers" on the far right to the "9/11 truthers" mostly on the far left. It doesn't matter that there is no shred of real evidence to support either of these beliefs. They see conspiracy where none exists and no one can change their minds.

If there are people willing to believe those extreme theories, it's no surprise that there are more mundane examples of this phenomenon that have been in wide circulation at one time or another in the recent past. Thanks to email, Facebook, and other Internet sites, these rumors and scams get spread quickly and exponentially, with the click of a mouse, and no one sharing these items ever thinks to verify them.

There is a Facebook phenomena of various types showing a person holding a white board containing a message pleading for X number of "likes" in order to attract attention for their disease / financial difficulties /  soldier who needs a job, etc. In reality, a photograph is taken of a person with a blank whiteboard. The message is then changed electronically, depending on the plight du jour. But it's so tempting to like a photo of a cute little kid who will go to Disney World if he gets a million likes.

People continue to believe that if they forward a particular email to X number of people, or "like" or leave a comment on some Facebook posts, something hysterically funny is going to appear on their computer screen. It never does. Yet the same people keep following the instructions waiting for that elusive punch line.

What the original posters of both the examples above want is for Facebook to see a high level of activity on their post. Facebook gives greater exposure to pages with high activity, and this can result in revenues for the poster. Even worse, some lead you to apps that can give your computer a virus. A good explanation can be found in this article.

If you use Facebook even casually you've no doubt seen a post saying that a certain month will have five Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays and it's the first time that has happened in 800 years, or something to that effect. Nonsense. Any 31-day month will have three consecutive days five times, beginning with the day of the week the 1st of the month falls. Seven months have 31 days ("30 days hath September ..." - do you remember that little memory device?) So it happens seven times a year. It's not a miracle - it's the Gregorian Calendar. We've been using it since 1582!

Bill Gates is not going to give you $5,000 for forwarding an email, and you're not getting free merchandise from anyone. Yet I keep getting emails or see Facebook posts from people with a message saying, "You never know. It's worth a shot!" No it isn't. Stop wasting your time, and more importantly my time, with this nonsense. Not to mention you're clogging up the bandwidth and slowing down my download of Hot Hits From the 60s.

All anyone needs to do is check to verify if something is true. The problem is the people who are already inclined to believe something is true, especially if it plays into their already rigidly held beliefs, never doubt its veracity to begin with, and just pass it along. We'll probably be seeing this type of thing continue indefinitely because no matter how cynical we can be at times, we still are hopeful enough that the big payoff is just around the corner.

And by the way, if you send the link to this blog to ten people, the most amazing thing you will ever see will appear on your computer screen. And Warren Buffet will put you in his will.  Trust me. Would I lie?


  1. As I quickly send the link to twenty people I must now ponder where I am going to spend that money from Warren Buffet!

  2. I don't subscribe to Facebook so there's no worry there.
    I don't know a ton of email addresses so I can't forward very much.
    I don't want to share Mr. Buffet's money with anyone.

  3. Excellent comment. It will not, however, deter the zealot emailers, no matter which side they're on. If it's in writing, they'll take it as true - if it's what they want to hear. And even if they know it isn't true, they believe it SHOULD be and will forward it to influence lazy minds.
    Reject such email. Return To Sender. So there.


  4. Great blog John. It's been awhile since I have seen the group..busy with school but still working on the novel. Are you all still meeting at Barnes and Noble on every other Wed?

    1. Thanks, Joni. It's nice to hear from you. Yes we meet the first and third Wednesdays of the month at Barnes and Noble - I just got home from tonight's meeting as a matter of fact. I hope we get to see you there again soon.

  5. I'm not interested in Warren Buffet's will. I want his money now. LOL.
    Good post, John.

    1. Thanks, Christa. I'll give Warren a call and see what I can do for you!