“Hmm,” I said as I read a fellow blogger’s humble gratitude for an “award” they had just received. Accepting this “award” meant that they had to answer questions about themselves and post them for the whole world to see. It also required them to nominate a certain number of other bloggers for the “award” and post the “award’s” logo on their page.
“What is this award?” I said. The recipient is a brave and compassionate person who deserves recognition for their crusade against injustice. I admire their passion for helping others. But this isn’t about them. I was highly suspicious that an “award” with these requirements was legitimate.
This hit the same nerve as those emails that want you to tell the entire planet very personal information so you can all “bond” over similarities and differences (or give a foreigner enough ammo to steal your identity, or pass nefarious viruses around that force people to buy new computers).
I clicked on the logo, expecting to be whisked away to a blogospherical Candyland gushing with praise for all the recipients of the “award.” Instead, nothing happened. Really? Grr. I clicked again. Ummm… nope. Dead end. Was a cackling skull going to pop up on my screen as my hard drive was beamed to a remote outpost in the Ukraine staffed by a man called Peggy?
Frustrated that this was allegedly an honor but there was no more logic to displaying the “award” logo than getting your hand stamped when you go into a nightclub, I perused the web for background information on these awards. Who created them? What was the real intent? Was Snopes.com posting warnings about them? As with most issues, I had to get to the very core of what was motivating these virtual Girl Scout patches.
I found nothing substantive until I reached a now closed WordPress discussion forum. An astute blogger on that page considers these “awards” a glorified “like” button. If you like another blogger’s work, you give them the award. But, as someone else pointed out, giving them that award created work for them. They had to post information about themselves, pass it on, and post the logo.
Essentially, as veteran blogger timethief said, these awards are a chain letter. This reminds me of the ’90s when we’d plop a Ziploc bag of self-replicating friendship bread dough down on a coworker’s desk or get requests to exchange underwear and dish towels through the mail. No one questioned whether there was arsenic in the dough or someone had blown their nose on the dish towel; we thought “fun!” and forwarded them on. We were rebelling against the system, man, because chain letters were illegal.
Nowadays we receive emails like this. A lot. While it can be interesting to see how many people have signed an email and where they’re from, I don’t really care to know what my former college buddy’s third cousin’s parakeet’s uncle had for dinner last night. I’m glad he’s well, I wish him the best, but if he really cared about me, he’d be asking about my diet directly. I have somewhat of an aversion to the personal (versus professional) use of Facebook for similar reasons. It’s just… shallow in so many ways.
Back to the “awards,” I acknowledge that they have one benefit, which is making people feel good about their work. It can be glorious to be recognized by one’s peers. So I don’t want to insult those who enjoy such recognition, especially those bloggers who are truly skilled at their craft.
Blogging is a powerful platform from which to effect change in the world, and there are some very gifted men and women out there doing just that. I commend them. I encourage their passion for balance, order, and justice. If they want to network through these awards, that is their choice.
I would ask people to question, though, whether automatically obeying the requirements of an award that no one seems to know the origins of is a wise decision. Perhaps, and I’m only being halfway sarcastic, there is slovenly hacker sitting in his mom’s basement monitoring the progress of the latest badge he’s created. On December 22nd, 2012, just after everyone is breathing a sigh of relief, he’ll unleash an annoying worm hidden in the cheery design of the “award” and chuckle as our blog content is morphed into unintelligible Klingon-like 5-point fonts.
I question the legitimacy of these “awards” the same way I question emails that say, “God wishes to shower His blessings upon you through the prayer of St. So-and-So!” Then you reach the bottom of the email to find that a herd of deranged wildebeests will arrive at 5 P.M. to annihilate your vintage accordion collection if you don’t forward it to 500 of your closest friends. Hogwash, and a gross misrepresentation of our Creator!
There is no reason you should ever have to forward an email, letter, or supposed award. God is greater than any threatened curse contained within. Is a true award conditional upon the future actions of the recipient anyway? Are you really giving something if you’re expecting something back? I suppose it could be argued that when you are giving someone a scholarship and expecting them to maintain a certain GPA, you are. But scholarships are generally not given because a professional panel likes someone, but because the recipient has accomplished something that distinguishes them from other applicants.
Okay, so some bloggers who’ve received these awards are excellent writers with eye-catching pages. Or talented photographers who have people gazing at their artistry day after day. Couldn’t we find a more productive way to recognize them though, like giving an award that doesn’t require disclosure? We could reblog one of their posts, right? On WordPress, you can also add them to your blogroll. You can interview them or write an article about them. If you’re hoping to score their site more hits, these are better ways to do so.
There are seemingly legitimate blog awards out there that actually do require a consensus or competition with other bloggers. I have no issue with those. It’s great that writers associations, ethnic groups, and others want to recognize the best blogs in their field of interest. These other “awards,” however, are irritating in the same way that an announcement about a coworker’s acceptance into a “prestigious writing institute” was. The institute has advertised in magazines for decades and its primary purpose appears to be making money. That said, the prestigious factor deflates like a worn scooter tire.
Doing kind things for others? Recognizing the efforts of others? Boosting morale, spreading joy, making people feel good about themselves? A thousand times yes! We can’t do enough of this in one lifetime! A pat on the back or atta boy can do wonders for one’s self-esteem and motivation. People need to know that other human beings are listening and that they care.
The cyber merit badges in question can fulfill those functions, so I understand why people give them to each other. I just strongly dislike the unknown origins and the attached conditions of these “awards.” What is the purpose of answering such questions and posting them on your blog? Is there harm that could come of that? I also disapprove of how giving such an award can give the recipient the illusion that they have received something more than it actually is.
To the recipient such an award might mean the world and if it does, that’s great. Reality is that it was not voted on by a jury of peers, a nonprofit organization, or a professional association. It is one blogger passing a heaping spoonful of “like” to another (and then putting pressure on them to answer the dumb questions).
Ultimately, these “awards” seem deceptive to me. I don’t like things that take advantage of people and make them disclose facts about themselves that they might never have shared without the prompt. If we bloggers are going to pass around these merit badges, I would like to know where they originated and do so without questionable strings attached.
On that note I’m tempted to design my own little award. Inevitably, though, it would be abused and my seal of approval would wind up in dark places. While I kick that idea around, I’m going to continue to give my favorite bloggers one of the highest nods of appreciation that I can– I’m going to keep reading their blogs and sharing them with others.
If you like what you see, reblog, comment, use the like button, connect to it with social media. Thank you for taking the time to honor me in this way– I sincerely appreciate the positive vibes. But please do not send me a blurry photo logo for one of these strange generic awards and expect me to tell everyone what my favorite color of metallic crinoline was in the ’80s. Blush!
My views on faith, food, frivolity, and dark souls may be on display for all seven billion of us to see, but that one’s just far too personal, man.
Consider the daffodil. And while you’re doing that, I’ll be over here, going through your stuff. -Jack Handey
©2012 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.