Friday, September 12, 2008

How to Nuke a Chain Letter

As I mentioned yesterday, I have a way of dealing with e-mail chain letters. I think just about everyone's gotten them. Some friend who's excited about just to online seems to be more adept at hitting the forward button than taking the time to actually write a message (this tends to skew older -- grandparents are notorious for this, but they don't have a lock on the behavior).

Whenever I get another update about Microsoft's charity drive, or how the PC police are turning "Sesame Street's" Cookie Monster into the Veggie Monster, I reply to the sender with a link to the page that addresses that particular urban myth.

It usually doesn't stop the emails, though. So the second time I reply in the same fashion.

If the behavior doesn't change, then I do something drastic. Most of these compulsive forwarders aren't savvy enough to blind copy their recipients. Which means I can usually see all the people they're forwarding this to, as well as the long list of people who forwarded the message to my naive friend.

I explain in a polite, but forceful manner, that one shouldn't take everything at face value (especially online) and that one should research such messages before forwarding to avoid wasting people's time. I once again include the citation, and then hit "reply all."

I never know what the fallout is to the sender when their friends and colleagues receive my response (although I can only hope some embarrassment might be part of it). But I never receive another forwarded e-mail from them again.

- Ralph

Day 89 of the WJMA Web Watch.

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