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llama drama

spam trends

Periodically, I (like all the rest of you, probably), get annoying forwards (a "lesser-evil" kind of spam?) in my email inbox. I've noticed that it's usually the same small handful of acquaintances who generate about 80% of it, but aside from that, I got to wondering about the demographics of forwarding.

Most forwards are annoying because they take time to delete, and they tend to be recycled over and over and over. I generally only go to the trouble of responding to those Dire! Warning! forwards. You know the ones: they tell you not to do some obscure thing because some horrible fate will befall you if you do. (I'm not counting the "forward this message on to 10 people or you'll have bad luck for a year" rubbish. I mean the scams about the fake cops who will shoot and rob you if you pull over, or the kidney-stealing ring, or some offshore area code that will charge you $12,000 per minute if you call into it, etc.)

I think that most people who forward these messages around to their friends and family mean well, but they just haven't learned to be skeptical yet and they either don't know about Snopes and Hoaxbusters, or they don't know how to use them.

Early on, I used to send scathing replies to the sender (and copy everyone on the of-course-completely-exposed list of people who were sent the message) with a link to a correction from Snopes. That made some ruffled feathers and bad blood happen between me and the sender, which I had to apologize for. I have at this point learned that if I just post a non-accusatory info blurb update on the scare message, people aren't usually offended and they tend to appreciate not having to be scared about yet another random warning of oncoming doom.

Returning to the demographics issue, I got to thinking recently about who I get the forwards from. Interestingly, I estimate that over 90% of the chain letters and dire warnings and saccharine "Christian/inspirational" forwards that I get come from people who are in my parents' generation or older. I wonder if the younger generation online just isn't taken in quite as easily because they're accustomed to having their email inboxes filled with spam and they know to mostly ignore it. Or is it that I don't have enough teenage friends?

What's everybody else's experience regarding this?


Hmmm. I very rarely get that kind of "spam". I have a few times, but I've then sent a polite email to the person (a) pointing out their error and (b) requesting that they not do it again. And they generally haven't done it again. Mind you, I don't think I have anyone in my circle of email acquaintance of my parents generation -- no, I tell a lie, I think there are a couple. And yes, I can think of at least one of them that sent me forwards like that.

The 'saccharine "Christian/inspirational" forwards' I do get more of, but not personally -- they tend to turn up on one of the mailing lists I'm on, which, while dedicated to a particular fandom, also tends to be a more free-form chatty kind of list. Those don't annoy me so much, because I have a filter which filters out all my different mailing lists into different mail folders, which means I read the different lists as and when I have time for them, and if I don't feel like reading sacharrine stuff from that list, I just delete it unread. Wheras personal mail from people you know, you have to read it, even if it's a waste of time.
Thinking a bit more on this, the saccharine forwards don't seem to be split on demographics, it seems like there are well-meaning folks in any generation.
I have managed, at this point, having been on e-mail for more of my life than off it, to browbeat everyone that routinely e-mails me such crap into no longer doing so.

Since I went to a Christian college, the saccharine Christian stuff came rather more often then; the virus warnings and suchlike came from family members, recent arrivals to the Information Superhi (*SLAP* ow, thank you), er, Internet... and snopes.com has been my saviour (as opposed to my Saviour) for that.
i love snopes! i've blown hours there reading all their fun exposes on urban myths and such.

thankfully i haven't gotten much of the fwds you're describing in recent years. i got some of it early during college when email usage really started getting mainstream. but i think people of our generation have outgrown that a bit. the warning type fwds, when they did come, came from worrywart parental types. those are rare now too.

instead, my mother-in-law calls at 6am to tell us not to eat bagged spinach. (-:
I especially detest getting those "Christian" chain letter emails that end with "if you're a real Christian, you'll forward this to everyone you know: this important message must get out there!" Or the other variation that ends with "this message was sent to you by someone who really CARES", which is such a backhanded way of saying the same thing. And I get those from a former pastor (who is dear friend of mine, despite these messages :).

[Tom Lehrer's "Folk Song Army" plays in the background.]

Spam / thanks

On-topic content:

If you've got that assertive-but-not-condescending tone down for your informational e-mails, could you please share the secret with me? I have a hard time adopting that tone in writing, let alone in person (which is a whole other ball of wax).

You're probably right about the demographics, although I've gotten the saccharine Christian inspirational stuff from people my age too. Let's just say people with... um.... a different aesthetic taste, I guess, or less cynical worldview, or something.

Off-topic content:

Thanks for the suggestion about Gary. Actually once I wrote all that down and emailed it to the mentor person, it dawned on me that I get Gary's advice too, seeing as how I'd love to have his job and all. So I asked him in church if he got my email and he said he hasn't checked in five days.


Re: Spam / thanks

I don't know if I've mastered the assertive-but-not-condescending tone, but my responses now generally go something like this: "Just a note about this safety warning: <this> is true, <this> is misleading. For more info, check out <Snopes link>. Snopes/Hoaxbusters/etc. is a great site for checking out warnings and stories." Minimizes the information, doesn't outright attack the original sender.