It’s a con game only you’re the Queen in a fast moving flutter of internet Three Card Monte. You know the hustle: “Follow the Lady and WIN BIG!” On the internet it’s called like-farming or the sharing trap. It’s not harmless, in the most extreme cases it’s malicious, either way you’re the big sucker. I’m going to try and persuade you never to hit like without making sure it’s not a con game first.
Let me pull up the hood for a bit and show you how Facebook actually works. When you hit ‘like’ it spreads the good news to all your friends. It’s social and we enjoy being social but letting you post the latest funny cartoon to that red haired girl you knew from third grade isn’t what’s made Mark Zuckerberg all that money. FaceBook is selling ads and the value of those ads are based on a complex algorithm that’s tracking the eyes that see each advertizement. Getting the attention of that algorithm is an advertizing firm’s wet dream because it means money in their pockets. Some of them have decided to exploit the system; farm your likes then substitute what they’re trying to sell for an easy payoff.
If you’ve spent any time on FaceBook at all you’ve seen the post. “Hit like and god will send your prayers to this sick little girl.” Put aside theological questions like: Just where did FaceBook get this clear channel to heaven. If you’re like me you’re thinking I’m going to hit that just in case it might do some good. Lots of people do it and the things that get into our hearts are the ones that are most exploited: The cute animals that are going to be put down. The wounded warrior down on his luck after a tour of duty. The cancer babies. So much of this is just manipulating your attention to make money.
This is what happens. After accumulating enough attention the page is sold, content is changed to suit the exploiters, only all the likes and shares attached to the page remain in place. The algorithm thinks you like whatever cheesy crap that has replaced the original page and is now trying like hell to accommodate your newfound love for whatever the exploiter wants to sell. The real payoff is because you’ve let them into your FaceBook experience all your friends are exposed to the cheesy crap too. You’ve been sold and because you don’t actually have an interest in the current content of the page any honest business that buys an ad based on this slight of hand has just picked the wrong card in an electronic shell game. Sure FaceBook doesn’t allow this but it happens.
How do you figure out if someone is trying to play you? Sometimes it’s hard but if you follow a few simple rules usually you’ll catch the fakers. The biggest one is just what your Mom told you: Don’t talk to strangers. It’s good to make new friends but a bit of discretion is always good. Snopes should be one of your bookmarks but pure common sense is your most valuable ally. If it seems implausible or too good to be true then it probably is a fake. Check out their profile picture. If there’s only one that’s a bad sign. If you’re really paranoid use the Google facial recognition software. That really trips up someone who’s just chosen a face from the internet. Even someone like Natalie Burgess who created an incredible web of fake accounts on FaceBook can be caught if you pay attention.
Remember you can always unlike a page and tell your friends once you’ve figured it out it’s a scam. The worst examples of like-farming are the malicious haxzors who use likes and shares as a scorecard. Their whole game is to run up the highest score possible before enough people complain and FaceBook shuts down the page. The latest Cancer Baby is beating the former champion by a wide margin in the underground internet troll caves. They’re not even out to make money so shut down their sick game by realizing the consequences of hitting like on a scam page. Don’t let the exploiters own your timeline. It’s that simple.