If I say, ‘How many RTs?’, what would you think of?
People have been using it in one way or another to get something done.
Like this request for a specific number of RTs for a prom date!
Or this request for 1000+ RTs so that her dad can get him tickets to something!
The most popular instance, the one that started the trend involved Wendy’s.
On April 5, 2017, Carter Wilkerson, a teenage boy from Nevada asked Wendy’s, “How many RTs for a year of free chicken nuggets?”.
Wendy’s probably didn’t think much of the question and threw a substantially large looking number – 18 million.
Carter’s response was surprisingly assertive and confident – “Consider it done!”.
It was that confidence that led him to canvass for the numbers and he actually got the deal from Wendy’s despite getting only 3.4 million RTs, which, incidentally, is the highest ever RTs for a tweet!
Closer home, Siddharth Sai from Kerala asked Parle to bring back their ‘Rol.a.Cola’. He asked the same question: “How many RTs?”. Parle asked for a considerably humbler number – 10,000. And that number was achieved too!
Search for ‘How many RTs?’ on Google Images and you’d get tons of such pointless requests. What made it an epidemic is brands getting behind Carter’s request and helping him get to the number.
If you think all this is fun, things take a bizarre, sinister turn with this incident. The cops at Torrington (Connecticut) shared a ‘Wanted’ post on their official Facebook Page, about a guy named Jose Simms who has seven arrest warrants and is being sought as a fugitive after failing to appear in court on charges that range from breach of peace to risk of injury to a child.
Lt. Brett Johnson from Torrington police shared on the department’s Facebook page that Simms had contacted him through Facebook and agreed to turn himself in if the post containing his poster gets 15,000 Likes! Johnson also added that he negotiated it down from 20,000 Likes!!
By the end of the next day, the post had more than 22,000 Likes and no sign of Simms! In a way, he gamed a serious effort, made into a joke.
We, as a society, are already reeling under the after-effects of being stuck to numbers that measure popularity on social media – Likes, RTs, Shares, Comments etc. This, even as Instagram is testing hiding Likes! The last thing we need is to mirror this relentless obsession with numbers like a popularity contest to perfectly serious tasks in the real world.