Monday, November 3, 2014

The Curious Psychology and Logic of The Forced Electronic Response

For as long as the internet has existed, I've been fascinated by the psychological forces at work when someone sends or receives an email threatening that certain doom will befall the recipient if they fail to forward the email to X number of people; or if they don't "sign" some petition; or if they don't otherwise respond as directed. Without naming names, the 50-75 year old female demographic appears especially prone to this practice. These e-mails usually demand self-perpetuation for some charitable cause or superstitious reason; or warn of bizarre scams and crime rings easily debunked by a two second click over to snopes.com; or share sociopolitical views that amount to a full-frontal assault on your value system and that make you want to rinse your eyeballs out with bleach immediately upon reading and absorbing them.

I have a similar reaction when I see something on Facebook or other social media that says something like: "99% of my friends won't re-post this/save this as their profile picture/share it/re-tweet it, etc. If you're one of the 3% of people that cares about animals/cancer/the planet/autism/me, you will do these things." Really? Okay. BUT . . . what if I don't re-post/share/re-tweet/save whatever it is. Does that then mean that I don't care about animals/cancer/the planet/autism/the person making the share/post/save request? Logic would have it that yes, in fact, I really don't care about these things. 

But that can't possibly be true. It simply can't be that: (a) the person sending these emails and making these requests actually thinks that every person who doesn't honor the request doesn't care about these things; or that (b) the recipient who fails to act on these requests actually does not care about the issue simply by virtue of failing to act as directed; or that (c) the recipient's response one way or the other in this context makes a legitimate impact on the subject at hand. 

Which begs the question: what's the point? Well, I think the point is pretty simple. We all have a sort of collective conscience of anxiety that bad things will happen to us if we are not "good," and that being "good" somehow means taking some sort of concrete, public action--inconsequential as it is--that will absolve us of any implication or sense that we are "bad" or unfeeling. And if you're one of the 99% of people who agree with me, SHARE THIS NOW.

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