Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chain Mail

So, occasionally I receive chain mail from people who have my email address. Unfortunately, they don't know how much it irritates me that they've attached my name to one of these things that will get circulated around the internet.

Don't know what I mean? Ever gotten one of those emails that claims something tremendous will happen if you forward it to 10 people in the next five minutes? Or one of my favorites is the one that claims that Microsoft or aol will give you 5 cents for every person you forward the money making email to? Those. Bane of society, I tell you.

"So, how does it all work? And why is it so bad? The forward button was the best thing invented since blogs!" (I know, history proves that the reply button came first, but that's beside the point)

-Unfortunately, no it isn't. Blue LEDs were, but I’m straying from the point. Chain letters work by purporting something outrageous then promising untold benefits to the actuator. Sound familiar? Yep, that's it: infomercials. How often do those things actually work? Have you ever seen something completely useful on an infomercial? I mean, imagine if you saw an infomercial for a microwave? You'd probably think to yourself, "I need to by a new microwave to replace the perfectly good one I already have. In fact, I need THAT microwave, because it has even more features that I’ll never learn how to use!"

NO! Wrong. You won't think that because since the microwave is completely useful and is a really good thing, you would have been exposed to it in other places, like Wal-mart. I mean, if I really wanted a good microwave, I might go to GE's website and see what they have, but I can probably find the same thing at walmart.com.

Have you ever actually bought anything on an infomercial? If so, I pity you. Although, I pity myself. I've done it, so I’m a little hypocritical.

So that's how they work. It should be pretty easy to recognize that most of the information in them is bogus. There are even websites that specialize in differentiating the true urban legends from the utterly false ones (snopes.com). Some chain emails even refer to the snopes.com article describing how the email is a hoax. <"Bold" he says as he slowly shakes his lowered head>

Why are they bad? How many times have you had to scroll through 45 pages of email addresses to get to the actual message of the chain letter? Those 45 pages are the reason they are so bad. They contain the email addresses (and full names often) of the people the email was sent to. The emails are there even if the person saw the chain letter and immediately discarded it (stirring up the wrath of fate, luck, and other mystical forces bound to the promises in the letter). Since the email has the potential to circle the globe several times, it also has the potential to end up in the hands of unknown malicious persons. Those people (who aren't bound even when there is a law prohibiting it) will sell all 45 pages of email addresses to any number of people who will sell it to others, who will eventually give it to those people who will send YOU emails on how to increase your manhood, or lose weight, or find a morally challenged partner tonight.

Do you like getting those emails? I don't. Even though I have a spam filter, I still get those emails sometimes. And I attribute it to the innumerable chain letters that are circulating through the internet with my email address on it.

I mean, seriously, you wouldn't put your name, home address, and phone number on a billboard in Times Square, would you? Yet, others have no qualms about doing it for you.
I can’t gripe without a possible solution. There is a better way. Actually, there are several better ways. Blog about it. If you’re that concerned that you will lose your hair because an email says so, multiply the methods of distribution by putting it up on a web page. That web page will be searchable by Google and Yahoo! Another option, if you can’t ignore the urge to follow whatever instructions show up in your inbox, is BCC or blind carbon copy. You might be familiar with CC or carbon copy. It allows you to send an email to your friend Julie, while also sending it to Jamie for her information. BCC works the same way and allows you to send a copy to someone without revealing that fact to the original addressee. This means that you can send an email to your friend Julie and also send a secret copy to Jamie. Easy right? Also, if you’re going to forward an email in any form, please delete the 45 pages of email addresses. If you can’t do all of them, at least delete my email address from it!

Of course, the other option is to get a real life and communicate with people instead of spouting back out the same garbage that gets spouted to you. Do research to find out if the email is true.

I know I’m harsh, but I’ve been thinking about it for years and needed to get it off my chest.