Who Wants to Know?

If you use Facebook at all, you will have seen some random questions occasionally. You have also, probably, answered a few of them. I once answered the question about how far I live from my birthplace, and the one about how many grandparents I can name. Mostly, though, I have resisted the temptation.

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These questions trouble me because I never know where they originate from. I only know that for any given question, someone on my list of friends has responded to it. Otherwise, their source is a mystery, and I am suspicious.

My Facebook news feed is mostly made up of updates and photos from friends and family. I sometimes hide news, politics, and religion posts, and similarly do away with any advertising that is repetitious or annoying for any reason. Occasionally there is a crossover between people’s lives and the news, such as when there is a catastrophic weather event, but most of the time I can keep the message stream free of anything that might make me angry, or fearful, or irritated, or frustrated.

Those leading questions, though, catch me out too often. I may be happily scrolling through the day’s posts when one of those questions pops up and intrigues me. Today’s question was, “If you were given an envelope with the time and date of your death inside, would you open it?”  Why do I feel the need to answer an off-the-wall question posed by someone I do not know? There must be some psychological reason for it, and it probably has to do with people-pleasing, or being obedient, or fear of rejection, or something like that. Regardless, when I see a question, I want to answer it.

There is no earthly reason why anyone would want to name a pet after the last meal I ate, or use my name spelled backwards for anything. So, those questions must be serving some other purpose, and my spidey-sense tells me that purpose is probably not in my best interests.

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Someone I know thought that the question-posers were probably seeking clues to his password, and so he answered every question with the word “Password.” That was a cute response, but it had the side effect of putting those questions into the news feed of everyone on his Friends list, thus spreading the specious questions even further.

It seems more likely that the questions are scraping data from the respondent’s Facebook page to add to the ever-growing cache of personal information that is being stored about us somewhere in the cloud. After Brexit in the U.K. and the 2016 election in the U.S. we discovered that Russia and Cambridge Analytica had been interfering by planting false and/or misleading posts on Facebook. Since then, I have become mistrustful of any post that is not clearly from someone I know.

The purpose of those random posts was not only to misinform but also to gather data to form psychographic analyses. They sometimes did this by inviting readers to respond to quizzes. Psychographics are the attitudes, interests, personality, values, and tastes of a particular group of people, and they are being used to influence our behaviours. I strongly suspect that the random questions on my Facebook feed are a part of that effort.

I know that Mark Zuckerberg has promised to do something about this, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen. If the question doesn’t come from someone I know, I’m not answering it, but I have a question of my own to ask the questioners:  “Why are you asking me this?” And I would really like to know the answer.

15 Comments

  1. My policy is to never answer any FB quizzes or click on any links. If I am curious about an ad I will Google it from my browser. Perhaps not perfect but it makes me feel better.

  2. I, too, would like to know what purpose those questions serve, or why we’re tempted to answer them. I tend to avoid them altogether, as you do. But not always. We live in a complex world, seemingly run by random algorithms. Happy New Year!

  3. Ever since Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram (I believe?) televised that LIVE-feed of that mass-murderer in Christchurch, New Zealand, mowing down women, children, and men… I no longer assist those social-media site’s bank accounts nor their Owners & CEO’s wallets/purses. Before Christchurch I was almost never on the sites anyway, but after that live-feed happened, I could NEVER give one-cent or minute of support to their Criminal Negligence and Accessory to Murder (at that time), Indirect Violence or Torture of peoples, and being a non-stop conduit for profane amounts of DISinformation around the world!

    It has been great riddance ever since! I can’t seem to persuade all of my friends and family to do the same—I guess because they are literally addicted to the sites, as if it’s crystal meth!

    1. I, too, left Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram but after a few years I realized I had lost touch with many of my friends and family who prefer Facebook to other means of communication. So, I returned to Facebook in order to maintain those connections. For me, the addiction is not so much to Facebook as to the people I know and love.

      1. I prefer phone calls, hand-written letters, quickies even. But I will NEVER understand why people believe they only connect, interact, or catchup with endeared loved ones STRICTLY thru a social-media site.

        OMFG… these days I treasure (like oxygen) live phone calls or handwritten Hallmark cards or a two-page letters that take perhaps 7-10 mins to write and drop into the postal box. Ugh…

        Intimacy and care like that is a dying fine art now, if it isn’t already completely dead. My phone never rings, except from corporate solicitors, political campaigners, or overseas scams. I’m considering tossing out my cell phone all together. It is of little use to me… unless one day/night I am lost, crashed(?) in an extremely remote location? Then, assuming the battery—that can never charged above 40%–70%—is charged enough, MAYBE its GPS coordinates will possibly get rescuers to me. HAHAHA!!! 😄 Serves me right for being way out there all alone in the first place. 😉

  4. I think your question of who’s asking is the best question to ask. And, as you and others have said, avoid answering. Zuckerberg definitely has some cleaning up to do, and I am doubtful he will do it voluntarily.

  5. I used to ask questions so my algorithms would show a lot of activity and my post would show up on more feeds to promote my weight loss business. The questions, though, were usually light and the answers were usually pretty entertaining. House on the beach or house in the mountains?

    1. I imagine your questions were clearly associated with your business, and so the source would have been identifiable. The questions I’m referring to have no clear origin, and that is what makes me suspicious of them.

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