People who should be smart enough not to send chain emails are routinely sending me…yeah, you guessed it, chain emails. I always try to get out ahead of them, usually spending time I don’t have doing the research that the sender should have done, and forwarding links to Snopes, Hoaxbusters (which seems to be down right now), etc. concerning the email to all those in the distribution (which is almost always in the To: field, open for anyone to “Send to All” and discuss the bogus thing yet) asking them not to forward this stuff, but it never works.
Last evening, I received yet-another-copy of the “Immigrants Are Getting Our Social Security!!!!! Sign This Petition Now!!!~!” horsepucky (it’s been running around the net in one form or another for a whole lot of years now), and the forwarder was indignant that I would question the person who sent it to him. No one actually bothers to research these, especially when they say somewhere in them, “Send this to everyone you know!!!” yet in all the years I’ve been using the Internet (and I started using a BITNET gateway long before there was any commercial use permitted) I have only ever seen ONE of these stupid things that had even an ounce of truth to it, and even that one (concerning an IRS rebate of overcharged telephone tax) contained information that was well-covered by every news outlet in the country.
I try to explain to people that forwarding this claptrap is a waste of time for the sender and the recipient, but no one listens. Clearly, I don’t articulate it kindly enough, so let me borrow a paragraph from BreakTheChain.org:
There are all sorts of junk e-mails floating around the Internet, but perhaps the most offensive is the junk we send each other: bogus virus warnings, urban legends, offers of easy cash, letters that promise to help sick kids… the list goes on.
Seriously, if you receive an email sent to a distribution list of hundreds, containing more exclamation points than you’ve ever seen before, telling you it’s vital that you send this to everyone you know immediately…DON’T. 99.99% of the time it’s completely bogus, and even if there is a kernel of truth to it, if it’s important the information will be in your local newspaper.
And if you do get the urge to annoy your closest friends and family with it anyway, at least have the decency to do a little research first, so you at least know you’re sending out nonsense. A good place to start in your search is the Top 10 sites to debunk urban legends at TechRepublic, which puts my personal favorite, the above-mentioned Snopes.com at the top of the list.
If it’s a petition, before you blast it out to everyone in site read this article at Hoax-slayer.com, which explains in painful detail why these “petitions” are worse than useless, even if you stumble on one that isn’t an outright lie. If it’s a cookie recipe, before mailing it make a batch of the things so you can find out how lousy the d*mned things really are. If it tells you that Bill Gates is going to give you a bazillion dollars if you forward this to everyone in your address book, don’t hit “Send” until you talk to Mr. Gates himself. If it tells you you’ll die by drinking a soda/eating a burger/cancer-causing lipstick/bug larvae on your envelope glue, well…I mean, c’mon, any rational human being should know this is a load of dingo’s kidneys. It seems this junk can only become “real” to us if we receive it via email, since if we heard it spoken we’d all break down in peals of laughter.
And don’t assume because it came from a friend that he knows what he’s talking about. After all, you didn’t check out the last one you forwarded on either, now did you?