Meme series (Post 3) – You’re not the boss of me!


This week I’m going for the low hanging fruit.

Manipulation. Guilt trips. Begging. Threats.  We hates them!


And so do you, I assume. Yet for reasons I don’t understand, people keep posting memes where the final sentence or two tries to manipulate you into sharing the meme.

It’s sort of the meme version of a chain letter. They try to make you feel as bad as possible if you decide not to share. I’m not falling for it.

I would hope you are a good enough friend to know I love you even if I don’t repost something that says, “only my good friends will repost.” If that’s what I have to do to prove I’m your good friend (or that I hate cancer, or that I love God, etc.) then maybe we’re not good friends after all.

I know you’re familiar with this tactic in its many forms.  Here are a few that popped up in my social media feed in just the last week. Most of these are fairly nice as manipulative memes go, but they still hit me the wrong way.

bad meme share
I’m playing the world’s smallest violin for you
bad meme manipulation
It’s a nice photo but….why?
bad meme flag
This meme falls afoul of Principle 1, too: this story is not true! And there is something “hateful” about “bearing false witness.”
bad meme flag 2
Another one that is not true!  They say the pledge every morning at schools around here and at scout meetings. Kids who are citizens of other countries or have another reason to not want to say it just stay  respectfully silent. Do you always assume there’s a horde of people offended by the things you like?


This tactic may take many forms:

  • Fishing for compliments. Prove my detractors wrong!
  • Guilt trip:
    • If you care about [issue X] you will share this.
    • It only takes a moment to share! [Implying only lazy people will not share]
    • If you are apathetic, then scroll past. Otherwise share.
    • If you are ashamed [usually of Jesus, but sometimes other issues] then scroll past. Otherwise share.
  • Appeal to pride:
    • Only 1% will share this.
    • Only my good friends will share this.
    • People are so quick to share bad stuff [implying that if you share this you will be seen as someone who shares good stuff.]
  • Everyone needs to see this! [The original poster is apparently under the impression that they have produced the Best Thing Ever, but you are too stupid to share this Pearl of Wisdom unless I tell you to.]

There are others. This is so pervasive that parody memes go around from time to time saying something like, “If you know anyone or have ever experienced anything then share this so you will be blessed. Everyone should see this and only 1% will repost.  Only kitten-haters will scroll past. “

I may have reposted that meme at one time.

When someone comments on one of these memes and says “I like the sentiment but I don’t repost” my friends often reply, “That’s ok, I’m just reposting to support another friend.” If you really like one of these memes, I recommend deleting the plea to share before reposting.  Otherwise, for many of us, the plea is akin to multiple exclamation points.  Contempt for the manipulative ploy often cancels out the positive message of the meme.

So here is my Principle 5: Don’t beg or manipulate people to share your meme.  If you don’t think people will share it, then make it better!



I only added one new principle to my list today.  As a reminder, here is the full list so far.

Principle 1:  Check facts and don’t share falsehoods. Lies do not “support” anything.

Principle 2: If you don’t agree with what a meme actually says, then don’t repost.  Find another one.

Principle 3: Make one or two clear points. Resist oversimplification.

Principle 4: Don’t use multiple exclamation points.

Principle 5: Don’t beg or manipulate people to share your meme.  If you don’t think people will share it, then make it better!


Reminder (Posted on all my Meme Series Posts)

I am not responding to or critiquing memes here on the basis of whether I agree or not with their underlying points. I have opinions which I may mention from time to time, but that is not the point of the discussion on this blog. I’m more interested in how these memes convey their messages and what principles I would put in place if I were the “meme police.”

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be free to post these things or that they are 100% useless for getting ideas across. Far from it.  Obviously, people are free to say anything they like and post anything they like and make any memes that they like. 

Likewise, I am free to critique them as I like. I’m getting these thoughts off my chest and offering them to you as food for thought.

(I also don’t go around thinking bad thoughts about people who post annoying memes. In fact, I kind of like knowing what my friends are thinking, which is why I’m critiquing these on this blog rather than complaining to them.)








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