Many posts online asks the reader to shut off their brains and type Amen, to Like or to Share
By: Waleed Shareef 5/31/2014
It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon as I open Facebook to spend a few moments catching up with old friends; plus, the bright white 3 surrounded by red icon on the Facebook symbol tells me that I have three messages to check. After checking updates, I peruse the stories of the day and notice one of the kinds of updates that strongly grate my nerves. It is one of those religious callouts that asks everyone to shut off their collective brains and write some kind of spiritual validation like “Amen” or “Praise God”. First and foremost, let me make it clear that I do not take issue with a collection of “saints” collaborating in a unified fight against perceived evil. If you feel that as the bible says “the prayers of the righteous avails much”, then by all means, gather and pray. Where I take issue is when an article online does not ask for a collective grouping of people to say meaningful prayer, but simply to send a statement of praise without asking the kinds of questions that these online stories should generate.
One example of this kind of online story is the one in the picture to the left. This is a story about a baby that was somehow trapped in the mud. Whose baby and where? Well, the post never says. What date or what event? Again the article never states this information. For all we know, this could have been a picture taken of a baby in 1990 after a landslide in Western Iran. That’s not what seems to be important here. This kind of post never strives for clarity and normally like sheep online, respondents never ask for specifics. Apparently God, who we are told works in mysterious ways, does not care for those details and simply wants us to lazily type “amen” on our keyboards before we continue to ignore the current problems in the world. After all, why worry about solving real problems, when like internet gladiators, we may send a statement to God that will, we believe, save whatever baby, in whatever time period was covered in that mud.
Another question that I have, and this is somewhat random, why do we say Amen to these posts? Let’s say the post was true of a current event and the child was not grown at this point and living in Iowa; should we not take the time and actually say a prayer? Also like the chain letters of old, somehow the posters of these messages possesses the power to engineer prayers or blessings by the number of times you share this one message (note the statement: 1 share = 100 prayers). These posts always are more interested in making their message viral than actually achieving a goal. If achieving a goal was the main reason for these posts, they would give you more information that would be relevant to aid in helping this child in this example.
Sadly, this baby in the mud story is not the only story of this genre that can be found online imploring you to type “Amen” or “praise God” or simply to like or share. What people do not realize is that a lot of times they are falling victim to a phenomena called “like farming”. Like farming, as outlined in this 2014 CNN story, is when unscrupulous people create fake posts with the sole purpose of eliciting a large amount of likes, share or responses. Ultimately they can later strip these posts of their original message and place a new message in there such as “Share if you love Avalanche Shoes.” All of the affirmations and replies can earn the poster a commission because they now use your responses to show proof that they are reaching consumers. In other words my dear friends, you are being used with the hopes that your gullibility will not have you asking some basic questions.
Therefore, before you share a story about a child with cancer that needs your prayers, or type Amen, or simply hit the like button, ask yourself these questions:
related to the family and trying to raise funds for the child? Is this person a part of an organization that regularly posts articles about people in crisis needing help? Or, should you be wary of some random person posting some random child needing “help” and asking you to share it all over the world without any justification as to their motive for picking this one child out of many?
Let it be known that I understand the goals of the respondents to these posts have their hearts firmly planted in the right place. With an eye on tenderness and charity, these people would like to do the equivalent of tossing the coin in the bell ringer’s basket at Christmas time. In other words, with limited efforts on our parts, we have healed the sick, saved the starving, and rescued the desperate teetering on the edge. The bonus is we feel that we have done these things with a simple depression of the keyboard keys – imagine that! Therefore, rather than changing our hearts, we need to adjust our minds and understand the cynical motivations behind a lot of these posts and ultimately guide our hearts in a direction that will be both more beneficial to those really needing our help and will remove the power from the nefarious who troll the internet preying on the weak.