A Little Netiquette Goes a Long Way

In the second novel of the Oryx and Crake trilogy, The Year of the Flood, author Margaret Atwood takes readers on an extended journey into a dystopian society ruined by an environmental catastrophe, corporate greed, and genetic engineering (yep, we still like to pretend it’s fiction) where humans are trying to navigate a collapsing world.  One of the most inventive and fun parts of the novel is the fast food chain, “SecretBurgers.”

SecretBurgers is the only hamburger joint after the catastrophe leaves society without animals that aren’t genetically engineered/created. Since the supply of meat has been critically affected, SecretBurgers makes its food with whatever it can find. No one knows what the burger is made of and it could be different things each time. It could be a rakunk (genetically engineered rabbit/skunk), a lab-created protein mulch, whatever is in McRibs, or well…you know…other sources (shiver).  You’d think a proposition like that would keep people away, but Secretburgers is astoundingly popular. They have two things going for them: a catchy ad campaign (“Everyone loves a secret”) and the herd mentality of people who accept the ethically and nutritionally challenged burgers because “everybody eats here; it’s fast and cheap. Besides, we are all eating the same stuff, anyway.”


Lately, I’ve been seeing what I call the “The Secretburger Mentality” manifest itself across social media, friendly talks, and theological discourse. In short, it’s everywhere. It’s the idea that any piece of information or advice is good and true for everyone. And, if it’s not – well, at least we all believed it at the time.  As a people, we are so attracted to our ability to share information we have forgotten to question the content, intent or applicability of what we share and profess.

SecretBurgers! We eat them up. See an article that vinegar can keep your window from icing? Fill a spray bottle, spread the word.  Read a study that says using plastic communion cups for art projects gives you plastic poisoning? Toss those suckers in the garbage disposal – no wait! Recycle them! Tell your committee it’s a must read. Share a picture to bring awareness to a cause? You bet! (And, put a “this probably isn’t true, but…” just in case).  See an article on “How trend ABC can save the church” – post it. See an article six months later on “Why trend ABC is killing the church” – post it too.  Those amazing cute food ideas on pininterest? Um, no.


I want to be smart. I want to be plugged in. I want to share life hacks, super knowledge and good advice with my peers. At the base of my being – I just want to help. I eat at SecretBurgers – and I serve them to my friends which is okay, because we all eat the same stuff, anyway.

Except, we don’t.  And, I don’t want to eat there anymore.

All these “helpful” surveys, studies and ideas that make us believe we know what <someone else> needs to do or know distract us from the most helpful piece of information we should be remembering:  we are art, not product.

Human beings aren’t created on an assembly line (even a heavenly one) with the same needs, wants, abilities, disabilities, buttons and bows. We don’t roll into this world in boxes marked: male, female, transgendered (numbers limited), straight, gay, nerd, jock (with complimentary soccer ball), parent, professional.  We are uniquely designed, one-of-a-kind, projects.  And, what’s more exciting – we aren’t even finished!  We arrive partly put together and mostly undone until the crafters, painters, and makers come into our life. Eventually, we will take the reins and add our own style, sometimes having to re-do someone else’s contribution, at other times building on it.

We are like those gifts you see on websites that say, “Because this item is individually made it may not appear exactly as the picture.” (I love those).  We are handmade, heart made and hauntingly beautiful.

No one article will be right for us all.  No link has a lock on our lives.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing some info and having some fun – but make it a real meal or a handy dessert – not a Secretburger. How?

  1. Check out the author, accuracy, and intent of the items your share.  (Don’t just write, “Don’t know if this is true, but…” – if you don’t know it’s true – don’t post it – just put up a cat picture. You can’t lose with those).
  2. Let it be an idea, not an indisputable fact that can’t be challenged.
  3. Make it fun, not personal. No one’s friendship should depend on a Buzzfeed slideshow.
  4. Let it go like a balloon. If people want it – they can grab it, if not it can float away. Don’t turn it into a “must read, must discuss” anchor.
  5. Start your link with, “Here’s a neat thought.”  Not, “This is true because…”

Stop asserting and start sharing. Maybe your “truth” is my “story” or maybe my cure is already complete. It’s okay to lead the horse to water. Don’t tell it what to think. And, if you discover there’s some horsemeat in a Secretburger – keep it to yourself.  Everyone loves a secret.


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