Plant a tree, clean a beach or more recently donate meals for Sudanese children. You have probably heard of these. Maybe you have even shared them. These are none other than posts by Instagram accounts that crop up a few days before a post titled “For every person who follows and shares this on their story, we will provide one meal to starving Sudanese children/we will plant one tree” go viral.
I remember, a long time back when such posts began coming up on Facebook. Comment on this to get good fortune, Like this to pass your exam, Share this to become famous and more. Sure, they are ironic to a certain bunch, but for the larger public, these posts were a reality for the longest time. There was a wave of awareness that spread about such posts and the importance of not spreading fake news.
There is a gross similarity between those old Facebook posts and the new trend that has taken over Instagram. It is human nature to care, feel infuriated when wronged and want to help. And it is almost incredible how people who run accounts that make the posts referenced above have used this human nature to their advantage as a marketing stunt for gaining publicity. And it is disheartening to see that the public, without any thought, or questions have decided to accept and believe the claims made by such accounts to be true and share them without any inhibitions. But that needs to change.
So, what exactly are these posts?
Identifying such Posts —
These posts are usually about issues that are current, about social issues that have been on for a while or about the environment. They may either claim that they will act directly based on the follows/likes/shares or donate money equivalent to the same. So, how do we identify them? Asking the following questions can help:
- When was the page created?
- How many posts does it have?
- Who is running the account? Who are they affiliated to?
- Does the post explain how they are going to achieve what they claim?
- Are there stories showcasing proof of what they claimed?
- Message and ask them how they plan on doing this.
- Do not hesitate to question the lack of information from such accounts.
These accounts typically have one post, use phrases such as for every like, for every person who shares, like to, share this on your story to and more. They will have a ton of followers, do not be mislead by that. They use bright solid colors to attract your attention.
What to do about such Posts?
- Report! The account and the post.
- Look for similar accounts that have cropped up and are most likely using the same images. Report those as well. You can use hashtags to find similar fake content.
- Share with your friends and family about these scams and educate them about the need to verify the information and only share what is accurate.
Are all accounts that do this, fake?
While the majority of them are fake, there are some websites and accounts that are not and are truly trying to help. For instance, Tentree, a sustainable clothing apparel company shared a similar post where a set of likes counted towards planting trees. The difference there is that they did show an account of the same. And websites such as Ecosia, have planted over 59,000,000 trees for every search hit through their search engine. It is all about being able to identify those who actually intend on taking the steps. And such accounts will display proof of the same.
Then, how can we help?
Social media can be a powerful positive tool if used wisely. And it is important that we stay calm, read our facts, verify the information we receive and then make an educated attempt at sharing what we have learned. This will help curb fake information and false hope from spreading.
If you cannot find accounts that are trying to do good for a cause you are looking for, then take the initiative to find organizations that are. Donations and fundraisers are what ultimately provide the funds to make a change or help. You may not be able to donate yourself, that is fine. Share those links around, maybe someone else can.
Do not think that hitting a share button on a post that says: “For every person who shares this, we will…” is helping. It is a gross and terrible way of twisting human emotion to gain publicity. Be a responsible citizen of the world and treat the things you share on social media about sensitive issues as seriously as you would the causes you donate your money for.
Read. Share on social media, responsibly. Educate. And if you really wish to help, take the effort.