Let’s start the week with a nice gentle experiment – take a look at the three quotes below, and see how much you agree or identify with them:
“Do not compare yourself to others. If you do so, you are insulting yourself.”
“The man who has no sense of history, is like a man who has no ears or eyes.”
“What luck for rulers that men do not think.”
They sound quite profound and insightful, don’t they? That first one is a nice little “stay as you are” adage that would be an encouraging thing to say to someone who is struggling for confidence or envious of a friend. The second values knowledge and respect of times gone by. The third, meanwhile, slags off both politicians and the electorate in nine neat words, and who doesn’t want to do that? These are quotable and sharable, whether in the pub or on social media.
What if I told you that all three of these quotes have been attributed to Adolf Hitler?
Sorry about that, as probably the last thing you wanted to hear on a Monday was that you agree with the leader of the Third Reich, but I’ve only done this to illustrate the point that people should be aware of not just what’s being said, but also who’s saying it, and whether they really want to associate themselves with that person.
I came across a good example of this yesterday. Being from the Wirral and having friends on both sides of the Mersey, a ‘lorra lorra’ people I know used Facebook to share their grief over the sad death of Cilla Black at the weekend. At least a couple of them used this particular meme:
It’s a nice enough sentiment and they weren’t the only ones to share it; at the time of writing, the post has had 28,599 shares, along with 13,095 ‘likes’. These ‘likes’ are just the ones on the original post, by the way – they don’t include all the ones sure to have popped up on the 28,599 shares it’s had.
Look who the original poster is though – ‘English and Proud’.
Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with being English, and there’s nothing wrong with being proud of it, but it doesn’t take much browsing through English and Proud’s Facebook page to realise that they seem not so much proud as, well, angry! For a start, if you’re proud of something, why criticise it so much, call it “soft touch” and belittle its army? Would you publicly humiliate something or someone you were proud of?
Aside from that though, they come across as the kind of “patriots” who fail to see the difference between being proud of what you are, and being intolerant of anyone slightly different to them, as shown by some of the very unpleasant postings about the Calais migrants.
As objectionable as I find these views, people are entitled to them, so people of this mindset should like, share and follow English and Proud if that’s what they want to do. The sad thing is that I don’t think many of the 28,599 people who shared that particular post really wanted to endorse the ramblings of this lot. They just wanted to pay tribute to a TV personality.
This is where it all becomes rather distasteful to me. It’s using affable language and expressing agreeable thoughts to hoodwink ordinary people into publicising extreme and unpleasant views. Worse still, they’re doing this by capitalising on a dead celebrity. Do you really want to have them clogging up your timeline?
English and Proud is not an isolated case though. Perhaps the best (or worst) example of an extreme group benefiting from social media is the far-right minor political party Britain First. This is a party that, by its own admission, spouts a “robust and confrontational” anti-EU message and, among other things, has been noted for turning up unannounced at mosques and handing out Bibles.
The party is also known for its social media success though, boasting more than 800,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook. This completely dwarves any other party, with Labour and the Conservatives only just edging ahead if their ‘Likes’ were pooled together.
How do they do it? They connect with Facebook users by posting tributes to soldiers, and play on their insecurities by making unsourced comments about immigration, then asking them to share them if they agree.
It seems obvious to me that some people simply have a “see it, share it” approach to social media, and it’s annoying not just because of some of the views that end up shared, but also because it means that a very lazy and dishonest form of internet marketing is actually working.
So, come on, let’s stamp this out! Here’s my five-point plan to cutting down short-sighted sharing:
1. Read the text. Do you agree with it? (I’m sure some people don’t even follow this part before sharing).
2. If it’s a statement or statistic, check it. Don’t just share and assume it’s true.
3. Look at who posted/tweeted it originally. Does it sound like someone you want to identify with?
4. Take a look at the account of the original poster. Is it filled with racial hatred? If so, think carefully about whether you want to share it.
5. Broadcast it on your own account if, and only if, you have completed steps 1 to 4 and are happy with your findings.
There we go, that shouldn’t be too difficult, should it? That way, we can all pay our tributes to Cilla and leave the Calais migrants out of it.