Just say “No” to chain mails and the Forward button

My mom relayed an email Forward to me because it sounded too good to be true and she wanted to know what I thought about it… and naturally it was too good to be true. I was glad she did (without CC:ing “all of her closest friends”) so that we could continue our ongoing process of becoming more savvy about email and the internet, as well as educating her on their dark side as well.

Forwards are mostly a big waste of time & online resources, and expose people’s addresses to the potential for someone with devious intentions harvesting addresses when they use the To: or CC: fields to relay the email on to others. From a detrimental standpoint, Forwards rank up there with spam/junkmail on the uselessness/costliness meter.

In my line of work helping people maximize their organization’s online presence and assets, chain email do nothing but

  • create needless worry, and
  • clog of the email servers with mostly worthless mail, plus
  • expose recipients to the possibility of more spam

Here’s the example scenario Forward:

Subject: Fwd: Fw: OIL–¬† You better Sit down

This particular mass email, ‘alerting’ the recipient to villainous bureaucrats who have an ‘agenda’ the includes not alerting us to the massive domestic reserves within the Bakken Formation of oil-rich shale which lies beneath the surface of the plains states and parts of Canada, just waiting to be tapped.

At first blush, this mass email (like so many of such Forwards) smacks of conspiracy and raises the ire of the reader immediately. The nerve of the government to withhold or mask information of this sort from the masses… but a deeper look at the details exposes some¬† purported statistics that don’t ring true in any way. It plays on people’s fears and stokes the theory that ‘someone’ is holding out on the reader(s) for their own personal gain. If there was indeed a ‘2 trillion’ barrels of untapped crude, it’s a safe bet a legitimate news resource (instead of a tabloid) would hound that story until a successful resolution is obtained.

Snopes.com tends to be a great resource, as well as About.com’s Urban Legends section, for reviewing many of the chain email that seem to be recycled and redistributed every year or so when it has dropped off the radar again. Maybe some of you have had a chance to look at other resources? Please feel free to list your suggestions in the Comment section below.

Most importantly, when confronted with the urge to click the Forward button without doing some sleuthing on the Subject matter, please consider the ramifications of that action. According to Wikipedia, junkmail accounts for roughly 78% of all email sent. Consider the cost of maintenance and time-spent monitoring mail systems and routing online traffic across the internet — such a pricetag is not easily tabulated! Instead, let’s all focus on being a part of the solution.