When I was a kid occasionally my parents would receive a chain letter in the mail. They always really bothered my mom and I remember hearing her talk about them with my dad in a hushed voice so as not to worry us, I guess. As a young teenager, I got pretty big into writing letters for awhile. I wanted a pen pal from some exotic place and I was always sending letters out in hopes of finding a kindred spirit somewhere in the world. I did get a lot of mail, so it’s not entirely surprising I eventually received a chain letter. Finally, I understood why my mom would fret so about them.
The letter I received basically said if I did not send it back to the individual who sent it to me and then on to twenty other people, someone in my family would die. It was not a friendly letter at all. And it was not from anyone I knew. That didn’t make it less scary for me, though. My mom found me copying the letter (no easy task - I’m not talking about running it through a copy machine, pen and paper here, people) and put a stop to that immediately, assuring me nobody was going to die if I didn’t send the letter on. She also pointed out I would be threatening my friends and breaking the law if I followed through with it. What a dilemma!
Physically threatening letters like those seem to have gone by the wayside. Of course, people don’t write letters very often anymore, but I can’t say I have ever received an email threatening death and destruction to my loved ones either. Today, the threats tend to be more about social standing and embarrassment than threats against my life. Ever read a status on Facebook which talks about any of a number of social injustices or illnesses? They say something like: “I have a child with Measles and it affects my whole family because it itches and is miserable.” Which is fine if someone wants to try to gain some sympathy or raise awareness about a topic I suppose. The part that turns them into chain-letter fodder is the ending, which says something like:” Only 2% of all people will be brave enough to post this on their status”. The attack here is on my social standing in a couple of ways. First, I am not brave if I don’t post it and second, I clearly must not care about those individuals afflicted with whatever the injustice or illness is.
I never re-post them. Even when I care.
The ones I find particularly annoying are those about being a Christian. I have no problem with people sharing what they believe on Facebook, it’s just the way those statuses are written is irritating. The post is usually a Bible verse or a synopsis of a Bible verse. Fine so far, but then there is the ending in which I am told I either don’t have enough courage or am too ashamed of my faith to post it for even an hour. Or something like that. If you use social media, you know what I’m talking about.
I’m not trying to hurt the feelings of those who like to share those statuses. But I do think it is not necessarily a measure of courage for me to post a status on my wall for an hour. In any given hour I likely have exactly zero people who look at my wall. So it doesn’t really matter what I put up there. And copying and pasting do not require bravado.