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Just Stop With the Facebook Chain Mail Guilt Already!

Photograph by Twenty20

When I'm on Facebook, it makes me happy to scroll through adorable pictures of my friends’ kids. To me, that's the whole point of social media—keeping up with people I care about, especially those far away.

My least favorite thing on Facebook? Chain letter-style posts like this one, which recently made the rounds:

"In honor of someone who means a lot to me...I'm going to say goodbye to some of you... now I'm watching the ones who will have the time to read this post until the end. This is a little test, just to see who reads and who shares without reading! If you have read everything, select 'like' so I can put a thank you on your profile! Cancer is very invasive and destructive to your body. After you have finished your treatment, then, your body wants to go to war with yourself trying to reconstruct all the damage caused by radiation. It's a very long process. Please, in honor of someone who died, or is fighting cancer, or even had cancer, copy and paste. You just have to copy (not share)!!! I want to know who I can count on... Write 'done' in the comment when you do. To all those who are fighting... I am with you always! I hate cancer!!! Done."

There are so many things wrong with this status update that I barely know where to begin, but let me start here: posting to Facebook does not cure cancer. I would argue that it does not even raise awareness. Who is not familiar with cancer?

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I’m all for using Facebook to raise money or galvanize for political action. You want me to support your 5K or do the Ice Bucket Challenge? Sounds fun. Sign a petition? No problem. Donate to your Go Fund Me? Clicking PayPal now. Call my congressman? Got him on speed dial.

But the idea that I'm going to effect change by copying and pasting someone's not terribly enlightening or eloquent description of cancer is pretty ridiculous.

Now let's talk about the huge load of emotional blackmail going on in this post. The author calls it "a little test" to see "who reads and who shares without reading!" as if missing a post is a Facebook war crime.

I wouldn't do it then and I sure as hell am not doing it now.

The last I checked, most of us are busy people with full lives. The primary goal of my day is not to make sure I've thoroughly digested every Facebook status update in my feed. Doing so would leave little time for raising children, earning money, or otherwise functioning in the world.

So the idea that the original poster is going to decide which friends they "can count on" by whether they copy a Facebook status seems kind of pathetic. Why not decide which friends you can count on by their actions in real life, like who calls you on your birthday, brings chicken soup when you're sick, invites you to hang out, remembers your weird food preferences, safeguards your secrets or helps you move?

Sharing a Facebook post is no test of a friend's worthiness—it's merely a test of who is easily manipulated by your shameless and passive aggressive tactics.

The worst part is how the writer guilts supposed friends into feeling like they're bad people if they don't faithfully copy and share verbatim this rant of a status update. And that sucks. Because maybe a friend prefers to use Facebook to share videos of baby pandas, but now she feels obligated to post this crap just to prove that she's not pro-cancer.

As if that's a thing.

Obviously, I'm not trying to censor someone from sharing their feelings about cancer and how it has affected them or someone they love. By all means, talk about it! It's the threat to unfriend if someone else doesn't copy, paste, share, like and otherwise kow-tow that I find really uncool.

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You know, when I was a kid, it was popular for grade school friends to send each other chain letters. They said things like "Copy this and send to 10 friends and you'll get a wonderful surprise. Or do nothing and have bad luck forever!" I wouldn't do it then and I sure as hell am not doing it now.

Can we all just make a pact to stop threatening each other on Facebook with these bizarre demands to repost?

I would so much rather just look at your kids. Or a baby panda.

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