Happy New Year – hope you had the best Christmas and New Year ever – whatever that is for you.  Mine was great, mostly entertaining family and spending time with the kids playing games and watching soppy Christmas films.  There was one thing though, that slightly peeved me.

Now I try to be in “cause” rather than “effect” as much of the time as possible.    By that I mean, I prefer to take responsibility for my life and my feelings, rather than believing that ‘I can’t help how I feel’.  I choose not to let most things bother me.  I don’t use phrases like – he really annoyed me, because ‘being annoyed’ is a choice, just as ‘being happy’ is a choice.  So, I am not going to say this ruined my Christmas – that would be ridiculous if it were true, and it isn’t.  I am not going to say ‘it annoyed me’ because it really didn’t.

But it did peeve me – the 11th time it happened.  And it peeved me, for one reason only…….I really don’t like people being conned and especially when they are my friends.

So what am I talking about?

Well, almost every day from the day after Boxing Day to this morning, I have had a Facebook messenger message from one of my friends, asking me to forward something, which they genuinely believed to be true, but which were spam / hoaxes – whichever you prefer.

The most frequent one I have been getting is about a little boy – or maybe a girl, in America with cancer and 6 months to live, who wrote a poem called “Slow Dance” (he or she didn’t, it was written by a grown man David Weatherford who, to my knowledge, is in good health).

The message goes on to say that forwards will be tracked (mmm not sure we have the tech to do that YET), and that each forward will mean the American Cancer Society will donate 3 cents to the aforementioned little boy/girl.  Sometimes these messages give the name of the child and sometimes they don’t.  Well, I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure the American Cancer Society wants to raise money not give it away.

The message continues with some psychological tricks – “I heard of one guy who sent this to 500 friends but even if we can just manage 4/5/10 it will be great and it doesn’t cost you any money or time, just forward”.  Here they are using the power of comparison – I am not asking you to send this to 500, only 5, how hard could that be and what a s**t you must be, if you can’t even do this for a dying child – is the underlying message.  It also uses the power of your friendship by saying ‘if WE can just manage’ i.e. I am going to do it so I know, as my friend, you will do it too.  Clever stuff.

The other one I have had a lot is asking people to place a heart on their status for breast cancer prevention week.  Which is actually a month and it is OCTOBER not January.  If you are interested January is international cervical cancer month!

And then there is a personal favourite of mine.  Apparently, people (it is not specified WHICH people), have been giving out free cute key fobs at petrol stations, or sometimes supermarket car parks.  They look really cool but don’t take one home as they have a tracker in it and the thieves will then know where you live and come and rob you.  Because of course, buying petrol or shopping at a supermarket, makes you the perfect target for thieves…….Why was that again???? (sad face, big sigh).

And yet another one that has reared its ugly head AGAIN for the 8th year running is – “Quick – send this to 10 of your friends NOW because Facebook is going to start charging from Saturday, but if you show you are an active FB user by forwarding this to at least 10 contacts you will get a blue button and won’t be charged”.  I paraphrase.

The reason I get a bit peeved at these messages, is not because I am going to be taken in by them (though many many people genuinely are), and it is not because I always spend time to reply to the sender and send them to a link which talks about the hoax (which I do).  My preferred site for this, by the way,  is Snopes.com – which I would besiege you to look at BEFORE forwarding these spam messages to all your mates.

No, the reason I am peeved is because I love my friends and I don’t like the thought of them being taken in by messages started by people with nothing more productive to do with their time than waste other people’s.

So – the next time you get ANY message – however genuine it sounds – asking you to forward to 5/10/all your friends on Facebook, promise me you will take the following steps.

  1. Take a big deep breath and raise one eyebrow.
  2. Say out loud the words ‘Really? You really expect me to believe that?’
  3. Ignore the message and choose option A and/or B
  4. Option A – get on with the rest of your day happy in the knowledge you have just saved your friends time and effort and you have stopped a piece of spam going any further
  5. Option B – Go to Snopes.com, search for ‘Facebook’ or ‘Breast Cancer Week’ or ‘Key Fobs’ find the appropriate page and send your friend (who sent you the spam) the link. Or perhaps just send them the link to this article.

Remember, the hoax messages on FB – like the phishing emails etc – are getting more and more clever.  Well, sometimes they are – sometimes they are ill-spelled, illiterate rubbish.  But some look very convincing.  So if you get one, and you spot it and don’t forward it – well done!  And don’t get mad with your friends who sent it.  They were doing what they thought, was a good thing.

If all else fails and you can’t find it on Snopes (which can be hard to interrogate at times), and you want to be sure then you can always forward it to me, and I will refer you back to the 5 steps above!!  In fact – do that.  Send them to me, and I will update our website with a page on all the social media hoaxes doing the rounds.  Then at least something useful can come out of it!

And, just because I love it, here is the real poem mentioned above – Slow Dance, written by the real author – David L Weatherford.  It is poignant and has a powerful message in it about how you spend your time.

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round,
or listened to rain slapping the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight,
or gazed at the sun fading into the night?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly,
when you ask “How are you?”, do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed,
with the next hundred chores running through your head?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow,
and in your haste, not seen his sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let a friendship die,
’cause you never had time to call and say hi?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere,
you miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,
it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life isn’t a race, so take it slower,
hear the music before your song is over.