Over the past few months I’ve seen a growing number of posts on social media, challenging/shaming followers into sharing religious or political ideologies with increasingly passive/aggressive statements. Common variants include such gems as “All y’all ain’t gonna share this, ’cause you’ze ain’t real Christians.” or “This li’l kitty’s gonna be boiled alive, but you won’t reshare, ’cause you hate animals.“
Of course that kind of thing has been going on for years now, but there’s been a marked increase in Online Emotional Blackmail over the past eighteen months or thereabouts.
So what is it that’s prompting this sudden and pronounced rise in “You’re a dick if you don’t reshare this!” posts during recent times?
From where I’m sitting, things started escalating online during last year’s US-Primaries*, and have continued to grow exponentially from there. It’s almost as though all the Political Mocktivists and Social Justice Warriors out there found themselves at loose ends after November 8th 2016, and decided that the sum total of human knowledge was incomplete without their continued (and vocal) input.
Then again, maybe it’s simply because the growing amount of personal validation these individuals had previously accumulated, through “Likes“, “+1s“, and “ReTw@ts” suddenly, and irreversibly evaporated in the wake of election day. Reduced to nothing but burned and forgotten husks – ghostly shades, if you will – they were left wailing and alone in the cold light of a new morning, unable to gain the public attention they so bitterly craved.
But maybe I’m just a Cynic.
Nope¹, from my own standpoint as a Pattern-Analyst it really does look as though that’s exactly what happened. And what’s more, the overall lack of public attention, for previously heated topics, produced three very disparate reactions from denizens of the Global Village.
- They returned to Normal Life
Strangely enough, a significant number of politically vocal people went back to being ‘normal‘ in the wake of November’s Presidential Election.
- They became Whiners
With catchphrases such as “We were cheated!” or “Hillary won the Public Vote!“, these folks sound a lot like an 8-Track²… endlessly repetitive and going nowhere. The thing to realize about this crowd is that they’re too lazy to actually try and do something about the prevailing situation they’re whining about. So you’ll never see one of them turn into a physical Activist. They’re Mocktivists to a man/woman.
- They started Blackmailing Others
That’s the crowd I’m talking about here. They don’t even have the poor excuse of “Whining for a Cause“. They’re just trading noise for attention, in order to somehow validate their empty and meaningless little existences.
And they’re not going away…
If anything, they seem to be getting louder and more insistent, as others buy into the Emotional Blackmail, and as their clamoring produces results. They’re also growing in numbers, since ever more of Social Media’s Lunchtime Photographers are trading their “Goat Cheese on Olive Loaf” pix for Blackmail MEMES in order to get the necessary “Fix of Likes and Shares“.
Whatever the underlying cause may be, the simple fact is that Social Media users are facing a rising tide of such meaningless twaddle, and that a great many of them end up propagating this trend through resharing the offending articles. Either through a misplaced sense of guilt, through some type of “loyalty” to the sharer, or because they simply don’t know what else to do, otherwise innocent bystanders have become part of the problem.
“The Cornucopia of Humanity contains more than a few Toxic Nuts.³“
Humans are basically good-natured… OK, obviously many of them are not. One only needs to start reading comments on YouTube to realize that “The Cornucopia of Humanity contains more than a few Toxic Nuts.“
With that said, online we tend to surround ourselves with people we consider to be like-minded, and our virtual relationships end up holding real meaning for us. Further, we don’t generally go out of our way to upset our “friends” on Farcebook, Google+, or wherever. So when folks we follow share stuff with us, we’re naturally inclined to take a look, and maybe even share things on to our own followership.
However, when the materials we are sent by our “friends” are purposely designed to make us feel bad about ourselves if we do not share them on to our own followers, we need to stand back for a second and examine the situation.
Are we really [insert adjective] if we don’t pass on the Blackmail?
Of course we aren’t…
There is no specific kitten or homeless veteran who’ll miraculously benefit from our “Like” or “Reshare“. Chances are also that God won’t smite us… and Jesus should already know what we think of him without us putting a Blackmailey MEME into our social media stream. In fact, there is no actual adverse consequence to us failing to reshare this type of negative idiocy. Even if the person who sent it to us in the first place ends up unfriending us, because we’re not “spreading their word“, it is a bonus, not a curse.
Ultimately we are defined by our actions, not our social media streams.
We simply do not need this kind of toxicity in our lives… online or offline. In the real world we can bring a meal to the homeless vet who lives behind the bus shelter down the road; we can put out food for stray cats in the neighborhood, or we can physically take to the streets to show the establishment that science and the environment still carry meaning for humanity. These actions are of direct consequence; they have impact.
Passing on “You’re a[n] [insert expletive] if you don’t reshare my post about [insert general, meaningless drivel]!” to a handful of people who previously Liked “Underexposed Picture of Salisbury Steak“, doesn’t have any quantitative effect on society as a whole.
Go make some sandwiches and head downtown to feed the homeless. Adopt a kitten. Check on your elderly neighbor every day… Do whatever you think will have a positive impact on the real world around you,
but stop resharing all this inane shit online.
* For all you Non-Muricans out there, that’s the process of elimination prior to the country’s Presidential elections. It’s where the Republican Party demonstrated itself to be less corrupt than the Democrats**.
** While the Democrats proved they could damn-well nominate any candidate they felt like nominating, regardless of the public vote, Republicans had no means of defense against a Populist Upstart.
¹ Well, yes, I am a Cynic… but in this case I’m fairly convinced that’s how it actually went down.
² I am that old…
³ – Sasch Mayer