5 simple rules for forwarding e-mails — and not ticking your friends off!

You know how it is.  You open your Internet browser, and where it says “Mail” there’s a blinking light or some kind of notation that indicates something new has arrived.  You click on over, hoping that it’s a response to the resumé you sent out, or news from your kids or grandkids, or even responses to the dating profile you just set up …

… and instead it’s the umpteenth piece of “inspirational” slop from that person at church you barely know, or a dumb joke you first heard back in 1989 — or worse, an URGENT missive about:

  • 9/11 being an inside job that the U.S. government is desperate to cover up.
  • U.S. servicemen being shunned at a restaurant/stop ‘n rob/casino/head shop, that you should therefore boycott.
  • a petition trying to gain 1,000 signatures to let President Obama know that we want Washington to stop ____________ (fill in the blank).
  • this INCREDIBLE picture of some natural disaster that isn’t Photoshopped to a fare-thee-well, really, honest.
  • what Bill Cosby/George Carlin/Andy Rooney had to say about the good old days/patriotism/child rearing/whatever.

And you delete it and wonder why your so-called friends thought cluttering up your inbox with this crap was a good idea.

Well, gather ’round, folks, because you are not alone — I know just how you feel.  I too have had to go to the basement and haul up the shovel to empty out the refuse well-meaning people decided to dump in my inbox.  I’ve even had to set up “bozo filters” to keep some of it away — there are a couple of friends who, if they send me anything with “Fwd:” in the subject line, it goes automatically to Trash.  It hurts, but hey, I didn’t create this situation, I just have to live with it.

But rejoice!  If you know what I’m talking about, rest assured that Dr. Anselmo*  has the solution for you!  I have here in my hot little brain five simple rules that you can pass on to Miss Greta Glurge or Mr. Conrad Conspiracy that will, if followed, nip their penchant for sowing junk e-mail to the four winds in  the bud!  The bud, I tell ya!  Lend me your ears, and I’ll give you the wisdom of the ages, World Wide Web version …

First of all, let’s cue up some appropriate music for the occasion, courtesy of one of the most sagacious minds of our generation, Mr. Alfred Matthew Yankovic … and now, Five Simple Rules for forwarding e-mails — share them with those you love (before you end up having to block, de-friend or eviscerate them):

#1 – Never, ever, under any circumstances hit the “Send to All” button (or equivalent)!  If you have more than six e-mail contacts, I can guarantee they’re not all going to be interested in the same things.  Therefore, they won’t all be interested in whatever you’re about to spam them all with.  So don’t send it to all of them.  There is no reason to ever use that option unless you’re changing your e-mail address, moving or have an illness or death in the family; in all other cases, be more selective.  (See, this isn’t that hard, is it?)

#2 – Ask yourself, “is what I’m sending really going to improve someone’s life?”  I know, you couldn’t stop laughing at those pictures of housecats dressed up as Santa and his reindeer with the badly spelled captions.  But that doesn’t mean it’s going to brighten other people’s day just as much.  So before putting person X’s address in the To: section, ask yourself, “does what I’m forwarding really benefit person X?  Are their existences really helped by this?”  If it’s not … just don’t send it.  They won’t hold it against you.

#3 – Create groups among your e-mail contacts.  Let me give an example.  I like baseball.  Sometimes I have baseball-related stuff I want to pass on to other baseball fans of my acquaintance (like the time I created an all-time “Born on Christmas Day” team).  But I don’t send stuff like that to my in-laws, or the people I met through the Christian discussion forum that’s based in New Zealand, because they don’t care about that sort of thing.  I have a group set up in my e-mail account called “Baseball” (snappy nomenclature, huh?) that includes the e-mail addresses of all my baseball-fan friends.  If I type “Baseball” into the To: box, it will send what I’m sending to the people in that group, and only the people in that group, thus keeping it from clogging the inboxes of relatives, old college acquaintances, and the people in my wife’s CMT support group.  (Look in the Options section of whatever e-mail setup you use, and there will be a place to do this.)

#4 – If you’re passing on something that claims to be the truth, CHECK IT FIRST!  This may be the most important of the five rules, because the Internet has given a wide-open forum to every conspiracy theorist, inveterate gossip, person who can’t tell the difference between satire and news, and garden-variety wingnut that has the wherewithal to operate a keyboard.  The price of their freedom, alas, is your eternal vigilance.  My wife and I were getting so much “bad intel” a few years ago that I actually developed a form letter to deal with it.  Honest — here it is:

The only problem with this is that it’s not true!  Here’s the true story: <<INSERT LINK TO SNOPES HERE>>.  Please be sure to notify all the people you sent this to that it is in fact a hoax.

And PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, before you forward any e-mail purporting to be “a true story” or “latest news” or anything like that, regardless of the reliability of the person who sent it to you, check first.  Go to www.truthorfiction.com or www.snopes.com and see if it’s actually true.  If you can’t do that basic amount of research, you shouldn’t be forwarding things anyway.

(Sorry, but we get a lot of these hoax e-mails — it’s beyond annoying at this point.)


And if the person sending it to me was a Christian, I’d add this at the end of the second paragraph:

God calls us to be good stewards of what He’s given us, and that includes the Internet — He is not glorified by gossip and lies being spread, no matter how well-intentioned.

For a first offense, I’d just send it to the previous sender.  For second and subsequent times, I’d hit “Reply All”.  Harsh?  Maybe.  But I don’t get too many hoax e-mails anymore.  So … please take the advice above and check what you’re about to pass on against those websites I mentioned.  If they say it’s false/fiction/disputed, please don’t inflict it on anyone else.  If you don’t check … well, it’s your public face-plant, not mine.

#5 – Apply the “fourth man” rule.  Finally, before hitting the “Send” button, ask yourself what the response would be from your recipient(s) if this were the fourth time they’d received what you’re forwarding.  Because in all likelihood, you aren’t the first person to forward it to them.  If there’s even a sliver of a chance that getting what you’re giving for the fourth time will annoy them … then don’t be the fourth time.

Dear forwarder, follow these five rules, and you WILL dramatically reduce the chances of the person who gave this list to you arranging a necktie party for you someday.  You’re most welcome.

* I’m not an actual doctor — I don’t even play one on TV.  That was just my little joke.  So don’t send out a mass e-mail saying that I’m an M.D. now, okay?


One Response to 5 simple rules for forwarding e-mails — and not ticking your friends off!

  1. rtyecript says:

    I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

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