really? honestly?

When memes aren’t all they seem…

One of the oldest, incomplete blog posts in my Drafts is about a little Facebook group you might have seen. Or indeed joined. I can’t bring myself to recall the exact name – but something along the lines of “Six Degrees – Join the biggest experiment ever”. I’ll give a synopsis of the post:

– This group claims to be carrying out an experiment in connectivity and wants you to sign up.

– You’ll do this because you want to find out if you know someone who knows someone (repeat x 1-n) who knows Bill Gates. Or the Pope. Or Kevin Bacon. Because there’s a tiny thrill in knowing that, and one day when you want to stalk them you’ll have a route to do it.

– Or something. So you sign up. And you probably stimulate a few mates to do so as well. And it all goes viral.

– And then nothing happens.

– Except there is a massive group with 4+ million members and people post all sorts of junk on its Wall in the deluded belief they are now speaking to a massive audience.

– And you maybe realise it was all a bit pointless, and perhaps slink away. Or not. I haven’t checked but I suspect it still has many million members.

– And you probably missed seeing the Facebook application that really did do this task for you (able to find connections amongst its subscribers and their friends), and which actually worked quite well. Because the Group had all the momentum…

Anyway, to tonight…

This tweet zinged around the world at light speed a couple of hours ago:

Getting a count of atheists on twitter by hashtag! If you’re an atheist, RT this whole message #atheist

See any resemblance? Promise of an experimental ‘result’? No obvious root source or purpose? (though IIRC the 6 Degrees architect was fairly open about the book he was writing…) Instruction to spread it onwards? Classic viral material…

So why am I still thinking about this two hours later? Faxes, emails, texts, social messaging of all types – all visited from time-to-time by sweeping trends. Always have been, always will be. There’s really no harm done most of the time. Perhaps participants may get a little more spam in future (or maybe this one is all a really clever ruse by religious evangelicals to find hard cases to target?) but no one does more than waste a little time on it.

Except that a little wasted time multiplied by many thousands is a lot of time. And there’s something a bit unsporting, isn’t there, about misdirection of any kind? If you’re promising a bit of value for participating, then you’d better deliver it, hey?

And there’s a certain irony in this unquestioning transmission within a community you would naturally expect to be a little, well, sceptical?

Ah………maybe that was the joke? Cle-ver.

We’ll see. Anyway – I had a debate with the delightful @giagia about it tonight which has prompted me to write this. I’ve said I’ll send her roses if a ‘result’ ever turns up. I’ll go further: if whoever kicked this one off does complete the circle (readers of some of my other posts here will recognise my interest in that bit) and declare a result at any point, I’ll ride the tweetbike round Trafalgar Square starkers.

Oh, no faking a result, please. I’m sure I’d find out. We’re all interconnected after all, to a greater or lesser degree 😉

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