No I won’t. Because… come on, fucking seriously? Do you really need me to explain why that is never, ever going to happen?
Apparently so, because last night’s #AskHannaForCash travesty on Twitter proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that social media is turning people into dribbling idiots.
For those not on Twitter, or who somehow missed this debacle while it was unfolding, here’s the gist.
Twitter user @princessthot posted that she was, for some reason, pissed off with her father, and promptly posted a screenshot that she claimed was his his PayPal account, which supposedly contained in excess of $23 million. She then offered to send money to anyone who retweeted her message or helped spread the word — an offer which would appear to be backed up by a number of people (who, it later transpired, were her followers) who offered messages of varying amounts of exuberance claiming that yes, she “really was” sending out money to anyone who asked for it.
The moment I saw this, I knew it stank. For one of just so many things wrong with this whole situation, who the hell keeps $23 million in a PayPal account — an unverified one, no less?
And yet, very few people — including, I was disappointed to see, some people I follow — seemed to think this was worth questioning, instead engaging with the situation on the grounds that it “couldn’t do any harm” or that it was “worth a try”. One person I follow said that they were “pretending it was real but staying out of it, because [they] want to think humans are awesome instead of terrible.”
Via the Daily Dot, here’s just how easy it is to fake a PayPal balance, incidentally:
Uh-huh. Okay. Still believe it? Still want to believe humans are awesome?
Humans are awesome, is the thing — just this week, two separate crowdfunding efforts paid for a little girl’s headstone and an indie game critic’s cancer treatment. But humans are also terrible, and social media is, regrettably, the natural habitat for some of the worst examples of everyday (i.e. not psychotic dictators or outright psychopaths) scumbags on the planet.
Anyone who’s used Facebook at all in the last few years will know that there’s an epidemic of blindly resharing things without checking to see whether they stand up to scrutiny. If something uses enough exclamation marks and capital letters, many more gullible users are convinced of its urgency and authenticity, and go on to spread it to their social network — and from there, the more gullible users from among their group of friends then spread it further and further and further.
#AskHannaForCash wasn’t as obviously harmful as claiming that Red Bull gives you brain tumours or that a non-existent breed of snake is going to freeze your blood (and, aside: please direct anyone who shares shit like that on your Facebook news feed to those two links and indeed the rest of Snopes at every opportunity). But it’s still harmful in its own way; the person behind the Twitter account, whoever he or she is, was purely seeking attention and validation through retweets and favourites — attach a number to anything and it is seen as social currency by some people, particularly those in their teens — and now, unsurprisingly, having revealed that the whole thing was a hoax (sorry, “social experiment” — the usual getout clause) they have come in for a torrent of abuse. That can’t be good for their mental wellbeing — something which I’d assume is already in something of a fragile state if they felt the need to pull such an elaborate ruse on the less discerning members of the social media sphere.
You my call it cynicism, but the attitude that “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” will serve you well in the long term. Would you respond to an anonymous email claiming that you could come into possession of a huge amount of money just by providing some simple details? No — at least I hope not. Would you respond to a suspicious-looking Craigslist ad offering you a vast amount of cash for something simple? I imagine not. Would you let a random stranger into your house just because they promised to give you something amazing? I really hope you wouldn’t. So don’t do it on social media.
And come on. Do you really think an obviously bitter and twisted teenager “getting back” at their father by doling out their cash to random strangers is an example of humanity at its finest? Would you really trust that cash? Would you really trust that the details you’d have to hand over to obtain that cash wouldn’t find themselves into inappropriate hands?
If you would, then your Internet license is hereby revoked. Go and read a fucking book instead; it’ll be safer for everyone involved, including yourself.