Like any other day, you open your social media feed and see an important-looking, imploring notice in the status update of a trusted friend. It suggests that you, too, should copy and post this notice as your own status update. This chain status message may seem legit, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Your day has suddenly thrown you a learning curve.
Most of us know that chain status posts are the descendants of chain letters and chain emails. A few years ago, email inboxes were filled with messages from Bill Gates eager to give away his money. Other chain emails offered good luck or money if you forwarded them to 10 people. Some preyed on fears and superstitions, threatening bad luck if you broke the chain.
Chain status updates are similar, using social media instead of email to spread warnings, threats, or emotional blackmail.
A chain status update asks you to copy and paste a message and repost it as your own status update.
Sometimes people really like the original post’s message and feel strongly about sharing it. Others may want to get in on the “experiment” to see how far the post will spread.
So after receiving the “meeting between breadfruit” post from a trusted friend, a retired teacher, I smiled, thinking I knew what I was in for. I decided to post the email as an “experiment,” knowing full well, someone was benefiting and as I found out, most certainly not me. But, the inquisitive reporter in me just decided to give it a go. This is what it reads:
“My name is (fill in yours, along with cute nicknames). I think many people know me, no matter when our paths have crossed. Maybe some like me, and others don’t, but if you are on my Facebook, I want to believe that you like me. I would love to see if we can still communicate with more than just likes and gifs, and actually write something to each other. I decided to participate in an experience called “A Meeting Between Breadfruit.”
The idea is to see who reads a post without a photo. We are so immersed in technology that we have forgotten the most important thing: good friendship. If no one reads this message, it will be a short social experiment. But if you read it until the end, I want you to make a comment with one word about us. For example, a place, an object, a person, a moment with which you relate or remember me by. Then copy this text and stick it on your wall, (don’t share) and I’ll go to your wall to leave a word that reminds me of you. Please don’t write any comments if you don’t have time to copy the text. That would ruin the experiment.
Change my name and write yours. Let’s see who took time to read and answer according to the shared story beyond Facebook!!”
You have to admit, it does pull at the heartstrings and it seems harmless. But after leaving it up four days, I quickly deleted it, affirming my predictions – most have the wisdom to avoid these hoaxes. Interestingly enough, I found myself checking the post often to see how many responded with a one word description of me – zilch, zero, nada. I laughed out loud – thankfully, I have enough confidence in myself to not depend on what social media can bring.
Researching more, I read how chain posts not only feed on emotions, but that can also be part of a multilevel marketing scheme, or even someone’s attempt to spread malware or phishing links. Some people feel superior when they get others to spread a fake message that aggravates or confuses. Whatever the reason, it appears that chain status updates are, unfortunately, here to stay.
Since this one didn’t say to visit a link, or provide personal information, I assumed it harmless for the experiment. But after researching the title, I found countless victims, whose names came up in the search. That’s like a red flag in my view, giving predators ready-made lists for their next victims.
Recognizing chain posts for what they are is key to preventing their spread. You can bet that someone is collecting on the “breadfruit” somewhere.
Nancy Hastings is a Daily News staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @nhastingsHDN.