If I tell you that it’s is currently doing the rounds of the internet, because December is only a few weeks away, does that help? No? Still not got it? Take a look at your calendar and then tell me what is wrong with it.
That’s right, this year there are only 4 Saturdays and 4 Sundays in December. The statement is either a lie, and a very obvious one, or its still doing the rounds from 2012 (see below) and is being re-posted and re-posted because no one can be bothered to look at their calendar. So why is this still doing the rounds? Also, why is it being shared and shared again by people who are more than capable of reading a calendar?
This phenomenon last occurred in 2012 but the picture claims it will be 823 years before it happens again. Is this true? No, it’s as big a lie as the rest of the claims. This phenomena, if that’s what it really is, will come round again in a couple of years’ time with total predictability. How can I be sure? Because it is a feature of 31 day months, every single one of them, that they must have three consecutive days of the week which will appear five times in a month. It’s simple maths. 28 days gives you 4 Mondays, 4 Tuesdays etc, 30 days give you two lots of five days and five lots of 4 days in a month and 31 days gives you three lots of five days and 4 lots of 4 days. If you don’t believe me just check your calendar again. It’s about as mystical as a cheese sandwich.
It is a feature of the 365 day Gregorian Calendar, which is the one we use, that these days will nudge forward by one day each year, just as your birthday is one day of the week later each year. If your birthday was on Monday last year then it will be on Tuesday this year. When it’s a leap year they will nudge forward by two days. So I can tell you with complete certainty that the above statement will be true once again in 2018, at least as far as the number of Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays is concerned. I’ve checked it of course. I wouldn’t want to be accused of peddling factually inaccurate nonsense.
There are also versions of this doing the rounds that make the same claims for a Friday, Saturday and Sunday (2017) and also claim that is not going to happen again for a gazillion years which is why it’s so ‘special’.
What else is wrong with the statement? Well it links this ‘phenomenon’ with Feng Shui. This is an ancient Chinese ‘art’. The thing is the ancient Chinese didn’t use the Gregorian calendar to calculate dates. The Chinese only adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1912, so they’ve only been using it for 102 years, so Feng Shui has as much to do with this as polar bears have to do with bicycles.
If Feng Shui ever used any calendar to calculate mysterious dates it would use the Chinese Calendar, there are several but the most commonly used is the Han Calendar. I’m not going to go into all the complexities of the Chinese calendar and how the above nonsense doesn’t even work using their dating systems, but if you are really desperate to know you can look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_calendar
So why is this doing the rounds at all? It isn’t even a half decent superstition, it’s just the mindless posting of something because it has the word ‘luck’ in it. Better questions are how did it start and why?
Let’s take another Facebook phenomenon that seems to be re-posted every couple of weeks or so. These are the ones that pretty much say that ‘if you love me you’ll prove it by posting this on your timeline so I can see how much you love me”. There are also ‘tug at the heartstrings’ versions which are supposed to show that you care about certain good causes. Leaving aside the neediness of these sorts of things, what is their purpose? The clue is in always in the last line which nearly always says something like ‘99% of people won’t re-post this but 1% will.’ The idea is that you really, really want to be in the 1%, not the 99%, so you share it. They have won. They got you. But who are they?
Well it’s all to do with money. Every time we ‘share’ something on the internet we reveal a small bit about ourselves. In most cases it’s that we are proud parents, love our own parents, love our siblings, our friends etc. That’s what social networking is all about, isn’t it? No it isn’t. That may be what it’s about for us, but that isn’t what it’s about for Mark Zuckerburg.
Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook, is a multi-millionaire, maybe even a billionaire. Yet Facebook is free to use, so how can he make all that money if he doesn’t charge us to use Facebook? The simple answer is advertising. And that’s what this sharing is all about. Every time you share something you reveal a little bit about yourself to those who would direct their advertising at you. It helps advertisers to target their messages more effectively and hopefully hit the people most likely to buy whatever product they’re pedalling. The information you post on your Facebook profile is also used the same way, so the more you put there the more advertising you are likely to be hit with.
In the case of sharing something like the above photo you are sharing the fact that you are superstitious and therefore are likely to respond to adverts for products that feed off that superstition. The type of post that makes you want to be part of the 1% shows that you are either very needy or that you will share things because you want to appear as though care about the good causes they promote. Maybe you do care but that isn’t the point. The point is that somewhere, someone is monitoring Facebook and trying to identify those people who shared those posts and those that don’t.
If a shared photo is linked directly to another Facebook page then the encouragement is to ‘like’ that page, because pages with high numbers of ‘likes’ are commercially advantageous to people who want to advertise. These pages are then traded because they are worth so much money.
Those ‘suggested posts’ that appear on your Facebook page everyday don’t arrive by accident. They arrive because, at some time, you have shown an interest in something that relates, however remotely, to those products. The most common ones I get are related to various Armed Forces charities because I have shared posts relating to those charities. On the other hand I don’t get suggestions relating to tarot cards, horoscopes and other superstition related products, because I don’t share posts that trade on superstitions.
Over recent weeks I have noticed, on Facebook, a rash of ‘what sort of….’ Questionnaires, as in ‘what sort of spiny anteater are you?’ or similar. The purpose of those is also to earn money, but this time for the owner of the website that you are directed to when you click on the link.
It’s a very simple system, as anyone who has ever set up their own website using one of the web hosting services can tell you. When you set it up you are asked if you want to make money for your site by allowing advertising. If you say you do then advertisers are allowed to post adverts on your website, using any blank space you leave, and every time someone visits your site you get a small (very small) payment. Something in the order of 0.1 of a penny for every visitor.
But of course if you can encourage enough people to visit your site, perhaps by posting mock-psychological profiling quizzes of the ‘what sort of…..’ type, then those 0.1 pennies start to add up. A thousand visitors will earn you £1 and you may be able to attract a hundred thousand visitors worldwide (£100) every day if you are creative enough with your questionnaires.
The quizzes, of course, are complete nonsense and have as much validity as opening a dictionary, stabbing your finger on a word and saying ‘That’s me, I’m a quark’ (the noise made by a duck that went to Eton). Its harmless, of course, but meaningless and therefore a waste of time, but it’s your time and if you want to waste it that’s your business. But again, Facebook has tracked what you did and where you went and you can expect more advertising as a result of it.
So what if the site’s owner makes a little bit of money? There’s no harm in that, is there? But it isn’t a little bit. If they can attract enough regular visitors then the amount to be made from advertising makes the site an attractive business proposition and the sites can change hands for thousands, even hundreds of thousands of pounds, a go.
So, for all you socialists out there, every time you click on one of those links you are helping to make a capitalist richer. How’s that for sticking it to the man!
The sole purpose of a lot of these sites is to build up a number of hits in order to make them attractive to a buyer – and if you have ever clicked on a link to one then you know it works. The same applies for the spelling tests, the ‘what do these words mean’, the brain teasers and the ‘test your intelligence’ websites. They’re all building up a click count so they can earn money through advertising or so the site can be sold on for profit.
Youtube works in much the same way. Every time you click on a link to watch a cat playing a piano or someone falling off a skateboard into a steel bear trap, you are exposing yourself to advertising and the people who post a lot of those videos are doing so because they can make money from that advertising. Yes, the people who post stuff on Youtube aren’t doing it just to make us laugh. Some of them are doing it to make money. Not everyone, of course, but some people. Who would have thought it?
There’s even a website you can go on to find out how much another website is worth. Here’s the result for mine: http://robertcubitt.com.cutestat.com/ Apparently its worth $8.95, or about a fiver! Any offers? Why such a low valuation? Because I don’t allow advertising so it’s would be hard to make any money from it. And guess what – if you go on that website you will be bombarded with advertising!
You will notice that I don’t allow advertising on my website. I think it unethical to entice people in just so I can secretly make money out of them. Besides I would have no control over what was advertised and I have no desire for my name to appear alongside an advert for a payday loan company or a gambling site. I would rather make my money more openly. My purpose in writing this blog each week is to encourage people to visit my site. Of course it is. I hope that while you are here you will browse the other pages to see what else I have to offer. You might then get a little bit more curious and you might select one of the free downloads that are available. If you like one of those then you might even (shock, horror) decide to buy one of my books. But if you do that it will be a conscious decision, not as a result of a subliminal message that has been flashing away on one side of the screen while you were reading this.
So, the moral of this story is that Facebook exists to make Mark Zuckerburg rich, or should I say, richer. He gets rich because other people can use Facebook to make themselves rich, either by selling us something or by enticing us onto their websites so they can make money out of someone trying to sell us something or, more directly, by making the site valuable enough to sell for a profit.
If you are happy with that then by all means keep posting the dross, even the hopelessly inaccurate and out of date dross. But if you aren’t happy with that then think before you share. Ask yourself one simple question: Will someone make money out of me sharing this superstitious nonsense or this link to a cat playing the piano? The answer is probably yes.
By the way, please feel free to share this link to this website in the certain knowledge that I'm extremely unlikely t make any money out of the process.
Now, I’m just off to find out what sort of sea urchin I am. I can’t wait to know!