It is hard to believe that there are still people out there who fall for this. This isn’t new; in fact, I’ve probably seen dozens, if not hundreds of similar memes passed around by well-intentioned but gullible individuals. People, please stop. Neither Bill Gates nor any other Uncle Moneybags is going to give you a penny for sharing a meme. You are unwittingly participating in a joke made at your expense.
Let’s think about the content of this particular meme for just a moment, shall we? First of all, Bill Gates is the co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, the largest software company in the world. If Gates decided that he wanted to give $5000 to every person who shared a meme, don’t you think he could find a better way to announce his intentions than by passing around a photo of himself holding a sheet of paper? Almost anything else would be better. He could announce his generous offer at a press conference, or perhaps he could upload a video so we know it’s really his idea and not just a joke being perpetrated by somebody with image-editing software.
Second, Gates already does give back to the people, at least from his point of view. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a huge philanthropic venture, with stated goals of improving education and health care around the world. The Gates Foundation has received its fair share of criticism, but Bill Gates apparently believes that he is doing something worthwhile to help humanity. Bill Gates is not going to “give back to the people” by throwing five grand at anybody who clicks a “Share” link.
Third, this makes no sense from a business perspective. Forbes places Bill Gates’ net worth at about 77.2 billion dollars. Assuming he could (or would) turn all of that wealth into cash for his loyal Facebook meme-sharers, he could pay about 15.44 million people before hitting rock bottom. According to Statistic Brain, there are about 1.4 billion Facebook users worldwide. If each user can only claim the $5000 prize once, Gates’ offer could serve about 1.1% of Facebook’s membership. Now, if this offer were real, you would definitely have heard about it from some place other than a meme; it would have been front page news. Everybody on Facebook would be clamoring to share Gates’ meme, and his bank account would drain faster than a keg at Mardi Gras. Bottom line: Bill Gates wouldn’t just be “giving back to the people”; he’d be committing financial suicide.
The important thing to remember is this: any offer that seems too good to be true…probably isn’t true. Snopes has documented numerous variations of this hoax. In each case a prankster concocts a bogus offer, then laughs and laughs as poor gullible folks pass it on, expecting a free lunch that never arrives.
Now if you’ve passed on a meme like this before, you might comfort yourself by saying that it doesn’t hurt anybody. Well…that’s not quite true. It doesn’t physically or financially hurt anybody (which is why it isn’t a crime) but it puts a strain on limited communication resources, and your social reputation takes a hit. It’s better to just give these memes a pass.