Do you ever receive those emails with blue skies, waterfalls and yellow sunflowers with a feel-good message that has a warning at the end; if you don’t forward this to 15 of your friends within the next three seconds, your face will fall off? Do you usually immediately cringe, snap your laptop shut, fight a panic attack, reach for your phone, call your trusted friend Shaniqua and ask for advice?
Does Shaniqua tell you to forward it immediately because the last time she received one of those emails and did not forward it her hair piece fell off while she was happily crossing Kampala road at that spot next to Constitutional square? Do you immediately forward the message to 16 friends; with the extra one added just to be sure that Shaniqua’s misfortune doesn’t befall you? Well this column is here for you. And Shaniqua. But mostly you since you still have all your hair.
This technique of getting messages to go viral isn’t new; ancient Romans used it to get contestants for gladiator matches. They would send out mail using their mailman, who was usually clad in leather sandals (sandals that date back to this time in our history can be seen even on some feet in Kampala today.
This amazing fact had to be shared). The mailman would get the message and go to a random homestead. There, he would issue strict instructions; spread this message to fifteen other people in one day or else you will have to come and battle lions and other bare-chested, sword-carrying, Russel-Crowe-ish individuals for a chance to kiss the emperor’s ring. No one wanted to battle lions and all those other things typed up there.
So they’d spread the message fast. And the recipients of the message would in turn spread it too. This is true stuff. The technique has clearly evolved over the ages seeing as the leather-sandal-wearing mailmen were replaced by computers and Gmail. The penalty for non-conformance has been replaced by something even more sinister; your mind’s images. Telling you “Don’t do this and you’ll fight lions” is one thing, telling you “Don’t do this and something bad will happen” is lighting a matchstick and throwing it into a field of dry grass.
Your mind will conjure up several ghastly “something bads” and you will end up forwarding the message. Don’t be a wuss; forward the message only if you want to