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How to Not Cause Panic on The Internet

On the tails of Facebook’s security breach, someone started a hoax that caused nation-wide panic and reminded me of Elf Bowling.

Elf Bowling began in 1998. Like Solitaire, we all had it on our computers at home and at work. In 1999, a hoax went around insinuating that, at midnight on Christmas Day, a hidden virus would infect every computer Elf Bowling was installed on. I still recall the panic I felt with my colleagues as we hastily dumped the game off our work and home computers only to realize we were duped. An unconfirmed rumor at the time suggested a competitive video game company created the hoax to drive profits away from the popular Christmas game. Passing on rumor does have consequences.

The Facebook hoax began with a message that said, “Hi….I actually got another friend request from you which I ignored so you may want to check your account. Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears…then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too….I had to do the people individually. PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT A NEW friendship FROM ME AT THIS TIME.”

Let’s explain why this hoax caused nation-wide panic.

“Hi….I actually got another friend request from you which I ignored so you may want to check your account.” This first line says the person who sent it received another friend request. When a person sends this to one or more of their friends, they are saying, “I received a friend request from you or someone acting like you on a duplicate Facebook profile,” when in fact, the person didn’t receive any requests. When a person sends this to someone they know on Facebook, it’s easy to take it at face value because we trust our friends.

This part of the message caused nation-wide panic. Numerous Facebook statuses began populating my newsfeed stating people had been hacked. This last part made one person uninstall their Facebook messaging because so many people did exactly what the last part of the message said, Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears…then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too….I had to do the people individually.” 

Thankfully, I only received three forwarded messages. Others received far more, and it reminded me of Elf Bowling’s hoax because this hoax followed the recent Facebook security breach as if the hoaxster intended to discredit Facebook and cause people to delete their profiles. We need to take care what we forward to others.

If we are building relationships online, we need to act with discernment in what we choose to forward. Ask yourself these questions before forwarding an email or Facebook message:

  1. Is it true? If not, don’t send it. To check out a forward, do a Google search. I used, “Facebook Hoax” and, because it was the latest news, this particular hoax popped up. You can put in a few words in the story you are reading to see if anything will pop up on Google.
  2. Does the person you send the forward to like forwards? If you don’t know, have they ever responded to your forwards? If no, don’t send it. I once sent a group message and received irritated responses. I haven’t sent a group message since as I understand it annoys my Facebook friends. It’s all about knowing your audience.

In case you get messages like the latest Facebook hoax, send a text to your friend to verify if she sent the message. And, if anyone sends a message similar to this, and it asks you to forward it to all of your friends, don’t do it.

To kill this hoax, many, including myself, replied to statuses and posted our own statuses alerting everyone to this hoax so the forwards would stop and people’s phones would no longer vibrate with messaging notifications. Remnants continue, but for the most part, it is slowly fading, but like all forwards, I’m sure it will re-circulate with different words to see if resurrection is possible.

We can all fall for hoaxes once in a while. It happens. Don’t be hard on yourself if you did it. Learn from it and continue using your online profile to build relationships that open up to Gospel conversations.

As far as Elf Bowling…

I still miss Elf Bowling. Once it was deleted from our work and home computers in 1999, we all mourned the loss of the file. Between phone calls and projects, it built relationships between employees as we laughed together.