Sunday, August 28, 2011

Like Sheep To The Slaughterhouse

If you have a Blackberry, iPhone or other smartphone, or belong to social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, it would be fair to assume that at some point or other you've been asked to forward a message for a cause of some sort or another.
Sometimes it's a charity drive for a kid with cancer, or someone needing a rare blood type, or bone marrow transplant. At other time's it's to highlight the shortcomings of individuals or business's.

While the advancement of technology has made it as easy as hitting the 'resend' or 'retweet' button to further a cause, how many of us have taken the time out to think of the repercussions of that simple click?

Being active on so many social media platforms has exposed me to some of the pitfalls of this "sofa activist" society we live in.
For some reason most offenders seem to be Blackberry users utilizing the BB Messenger platform as their soap-box.
I've had URGENT requests to help in the search of a rare blood group, something I take personally because I myself am such a rare blood group (AB+). Only 6% of people on earth are AB+. The people behind these broadcast messages turned out to be hoaxsters, and the message was of course a fraud.
I've had requests asking me to forward a broadcast message to at least 10 people on my contact list in the ridiculously laughable belief that AOL or Time Warner or some other conglomerate is going to pay money for each message forwarded. Really people. This scam is as old as the Nigerian 419 scam, yet some moron's continuously fall for it.
Do you know why the Nigerian 419 scam is the most profitable scam in the world?
Because the Nigerians very early on realized that there is always one idiot out there who will fall for it, and all they need is that one idiot. Believe it or not, there are hundreds of idiots falling for this scam every single month, all over the world. The fact that it's been the most widely reported by governments worldwide has not affected it's success one iota.

Now scams aside, the real issue I have with people sitting in the comfort of their homes eating NikNaks while  on their sofa's and forwarding these messages is that nobody is taking the time to verify anything!
Here's why this is so dangerous.
Earlier today I got a Blackberry Message saying "Please forward to all your contacts."
The message was about a reknowned tyre dealer who was accused of not allowing his staff the day off for religious holidays. The tone of the message and the content basically asked all who read it to boycott the company and never have any further dealings with them. Moreover, the sender clearly asks that this message be forwarded to as many people as possible until the word got to the owners of the business.

Less than an hour later I received an update from the sender, saying that the company had responded and the accusations were now assumed to be false.

How much of collateral damage to the business, it's brand and it's image was done in that hour?
How many people who willingly and blindly forwarded that initial message feel any remorse after learning that they had just forwarded a falsehood?
An untruth once spoken gets carried by the wind and can never be taken back.
Do these armchair activists realize that they are affecting peoples livelihoods and good names by their simple click of a single message?

Surely there must be a level of responsibility we apply to what we send to others as the truth, our truth, even if that truth turns out to be a lie? Rumor's have brought down nations and Presidents. How naive must we be to assume that a rumor cannot tarnish an innocent man going about his business, or a company not guilty of the accusations levelled against it by armchair activists?

I really am annoyed by people who prescribe to this type of despicable activity. They are no better than the arsonist or thief who burns down or steals from a business.

I've broadcast a message on my Blackberry telling all my contacts that if I receive any messages from them asking me to forward an unverified statement, I shall summarily delete them.

Remove their audience and you remove their soap-box.