Why are so many people falling for copy/paste bait threads lately? Copy/paste Facebook threads are the modern day equivalent of chain letters. The people who start them are doing so to see how many people that they can trick into doing it.

It is a form of social engineering, a psychological test to see what works and what doesn’t – what words and phrases can we use to evoke sufficient emotion in the reader to make them do what they were told to do? (i.e. copy/paste).

It is not hard to imagine this being done on purpose so that the data of who follows the instructions can be data-mined and correlated with which technique worked. You could be telling a data-miner which techniques will work ON YOU.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the copy/paste threads all follow similar patterns. There are many different patterns, but the worst in my opinion are these two:

Pattern #1 – Prey on fear:

These are the messages that start with a warning or something scary that sounds true. The people who share these are concerned about their friends and probably want to protect them. These are the "add this legal notice to your profile to stop your pictures from being used in ads" ones, the "someone is spoofing profiles" ones, the "make sure you change these privacy settings or else" ones. They all say something scary and they all share in common that you must "copy/paste" the message and "Not just share it".

If you’re being told to copy/paste it then it should immediately seem suspicious to you. Take some time, research the issue, find an article in a reputable news media outlet, search the Internet to see if that phrase or keyword shows up as a known fraud or as something that has been disproven. Really want to project your friends? Stop spreading fear.

Pattern #2 – Prey on insecurities:

These are the messages that try to make you "test" who your friends are. The "did you read this whole post" ones, the "I’m trying to figure out who only likes my photos and doesn’t read my text so read this and copy/paste it to prove your friendship" ones, etc.

All you figure out when you do this are which of your friends are gullible, and depending on the content of the message, which of them you can manipulate using guilt.

This is not data that you should be sharing about yourself. This is not data that you should be asking your friends and family to share about themselves.

If you really are feeling insecure and want to know who your real friends are? Ask them to private message you or to share a story about a great moment they shared with you or of a great memory that they have of you. Better yet, reach out to them and share one of your memories.


So how do you know if something is worth copying or not? The answer is simple: if the thread ends with the phrase "copy/paste" just DON’T DO IT. If if the thread ends with instructions that "you must follow exactly" then it should be considered highly suspicious. Just like chain mail, these threads will only stop when a critical mass of people STOP DOING IT.

Stop and think about WHY the original message is asking you to copy/paste instead of sharing or adding your own original thoughts. The message is likely crafted to make it seem to your friends and family reading the message as though the thoughts expressed were yours. But by definition since you just copy/pasted it they are NOT your own original thoughts! There is a word for passing someone else’s thoughts off as if they were your own: Plagiarism.

If you agree with what someone is saying, like it, or share the thought and add your own original thought. Do the research, credit the original author, but if a friend asks you to copy/paste something, be a real friend: Just Don’t.