It never should have happened. I got the following message on Facebook from a friend, and promptly forwarded it on to a handful of others friends.
Please tell all the contacts in your messenger list not to accept Jayden K. Smith friendship request. He is a hacker and has the system connected to your Facebook account. If one of your contacts accepts it, you will also be hacked, so make sure that all your friends know it. Thanks. Forwarded as received.
Hold your finger down on the message. At the bottom in the middle it will say forward. Hit that then click on the names of those in your list and it will send to them
It never should have happened, because the message was rife with those little red flags that are the hallmark of many a phishing attempt:
- Spelling and punctuation errors – there are missing commas and quotation marks that someone who knows how to communicate would use.
- That telltale “has the system connected to your Facebook account” – suitably vague and likely to spook folks who were resisting getting email in 1998, or who believe every “From” email address that looks official.
- Instructions to spread the warning far and wide. Complete with basic step-by-step instructions for how to do that. If a thinking person who knew me were really trying to communicate with me, they’d not bother with that last paragraph.
I’ve been around long enough to know a hoax when I see one. So, why did I actually follow the instructions included and forward the notice to a bunch of friends?
Because I trusted the source. And I assumed that the source was in fact the person who messaged me — instead of the source being a joker who figured out how to game networks of trust and plant a seed of foolishness that was watered by the knee-jerk reactivity of people who genuinely wanted to protect their friends from an imminent threat… and then blossomed throughout the Facebook-sphere, bringing along with it a host of entertaining memes about said Jayden K. Smith that provided a bit of levity about the whole stupid thing.
Stupid is right. Like the animation above, “I’ve made a huge mistake” kept running through my mind for days.
Then again, it should probably say “Hive made a huge mistake” – because a lot of us did it. Hive mind. Coupled with the instinct to protect the people we care about.
And the ones we care about most, were/are the ones who get the brunt of this stupidity. Unfortunately, everybody wastes a whole lot of time having to research what the heck is really going on, as well as following up with all the people they may have steered wrong – to correct the record, to apologize, to include links to hoax-debunking sites. It’s all a huge waste of time, which could have been avoided if people at the start had verified first, before forwarding.
But of course, that didn’t happen. Because we’re wired to respond instantaneously to a threat — even before thinking about it. Our sympathetic nervous system (“SNS”) — fight-flight-freeze-f**k — is specifically “wired” to not pause to think about the ramifications before it kicks into action. That’s one of the reasons we’re still alive as a species — because our ancestors didn’t stop to ponder the ramifications of fleeing fire, flood, and charging rhinos before their legs started running. With extreme SNS situations, to pause and reflect can mean you pause and you die.
And what better place to hijack that knee-jerk SNS response, than social media, where everybody’s a bit “trigger-happy” anyway, and our fight-flight systems are fairly constantly engaged?
It’s all pretty stupid, if you think about it. But then, our SNS isn’t designed to be smart. It’s designed to avoid higher reasoning… to shunt energy and attention away from gray areas, nuances, and higher-mind considerations, towards instantaneous reaction. When it’s working properly, “stupid” keeps us alive.
For the record, I don’t just use the word “stupid” lightly. As much as I don’t care for the movie “Forest Gump”, I do agree that “stupid is as stupid does”. And there are specific things we do, and ways we do them, that qualify as stupid.
- Not paying attention.
- Not verifying something – not collecting enough info about what’s going on.
- Not questioning assumptions.
- Acting on an obvious lack of information.
Massive amounts of energy and money have gone into studying what makes us smart and what makes us stupid, but in the end, smart people still do stupid things.
Hive made a huge mistake.
But so it goes.
Jayden K. Smith has now officially take up enough of my time. Let’s move on. It’s time for me to leave my self-imposed hoax-spreader pillory and get on with writing my latest book… a book about how we connect, how we disconnect, and how we can use what we now know about our nervous system, to build better “meta-level” connections in this fragmented, conflict-ridden world of ours.
More to come…