Facebook chain letter hoax

Monday, 18 August 2008

Finally got the Facebook chain letter hoax that had people so “worried.” Nearly 2 years ago. My first reaction was to laugh–to myself though, this was not actual LOL quality humor. It was more of a smug, internal chuckle that people still believe these things and continue to pass them on without thinking, or out of fear that the big bad email will magically curse their love life or mysteriously delete their account.

Here’s what the Facebook message said:

Attention all Facebook members.
Facebook is recently becoming very overpopulated,
There have been many members complaining that Facebook
is becoming very slow.Record shows that the reason is
that there are too many non-active Facebook members
And on the other side too many new Facebook members.
We will be sending this messages around to see if the
Members are active or not,If you’re active please send
to 15 other users using Copy+Paste to show that you are active
Those who do not send this message within 2 weeks,
The user will be deleted without hesitation to create more space,
If Facebook is still overpopulated we kindly ask for donations but until then send this message to all your friends and make sure you send
this message to show me that your active and not deleted.

Founder of Facebook
Mark Zuckerber

My first thought: if this was really from Mark Zuckerberg (notice the misspelling of the supposed author’s own name), why didn’t he simply put it on everyone’s news feed? Or be annoying like Mr. MySpace, “Tom,” and send a message to everyone? Or post it on the Facebook blog?

My second thought, as I pasted this here and actually read it more carefully, was who would believe something so poorly written and edited came from a legitimate company? The structure and wording of these chain letters is what is almost always a dead giveaway that they are, in fact, fakes. And while a well done hoax can be amusing, even if you get taken by it, a poorly executed fake is just annoying.

Facebook used to be immune to chain letter shenanigans, fake friend requests and hacked wall postings but I’ve noticed a lot more of this MySpace-like behavior lately. There are a lot of people talking about the subtle shift on Twitter, and Facebook groups and apps against this Fbook spam trend are popping up.

The “Stop Facebook Chain Letters” app caught my eye, but I wonder if this just perpetuates their reach by keeping people talking about them. If you are so annoyed by an email forward or Facebook chain letter and talk about it or install an app, even to say how you much you hate it, you have still helped it spread. This app only makes more people aware that these chain letters exist, and, assuming this was the creator’s intention, are doing their job of annoying people. To that end, this post is further spreading the hoax as well.

Dan Zarrella talks about the viral nature of content and why people forward chain letters in his series of Protoviral posts. His research has shown that “those who typically forward chain letters are typically less savvy users” and, essentially, do not know any better.

My question is, are chain letters and rumors inevitable as something becomes more popular? And why didn’t I see this until now? Is that a testament to the types of users on Facebook? Are we seeing Facebook become overrun by chain letters and spam accounts because it has reached a certain level of popularity, or because it’s time as the “it” site has run out and it’s now fallen prey to the same antics as MySpace?

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