Pet Peeve #2: Mass Chain E-mails

I remember when I got my first e-mail account. It was a few months into college when some of my Computer Science friends from the Honors dorm took me to the technology building to sign up, even though I only knew one person outside of the college who had an e-mail address. The year was 1995, and private e-mail and the internet would revolutionize communication over the next few years.

At first I thought those mass mails with funny jokes, quizzes, and stories were cute and funny and harmless. After all, I was just glad to be receiving an e-mail. That’s why I couldn’t understand why an acquaintance became so anti-mass mail that he started spamming anyone who sent him one. His spamming list later became an alternate universe for silly college students with too much creativity and time on their hands, but that is a whole other story that was hard enough to explain to the FBI.

Now I absolutely despise mass chain e-mails. My turn-around started once I entered the work force. The same chain e-mail would be forwarded within a pool of about 40 people, so I would usually receive the same e-mail from five different people at the same time a couple times a day. After a few years of this, I just started automatically deleting anything that looked like a chain e-mail. At first I did this so that I could stop wasting my time, but now I get extremely ticked off when I read most of them. I really don’t need any more pointless stress in my life.

Sometimes there is the occasional funny joke; unfortunately, many of the jokes passed on in these e-mails are extremely racist and sexist. And then I particularly love the mass e-mails that insist that the only way I can prove that I am a Christian is to pass the mail on to five or more of my friends. I personally thought that God had an even more direct communication system than e-mail. The ones that particularly annoy me are the ones that are based on complete fiction or misrepresented information in order to push a political agenda.

For instance, there has been an e-mail going around that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim. I have not had the pleasure of reading that particular piece of crap. I believe that this is supposed to insinuate that he also has ties to Bin Laden and plans to take down the American government if elected (although I think George W. has done a pretty good job of that so far).  All one has to do is read Obama’s first book or even his Wikipedia page to learn that he has been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, which has brought its own share of controversy, for the past twenty years. But, you know, it could just be a cover. After all, his middle name is Hussein. (Yes, I am being sarcastic.)

There was one going around about a year ago that was supposedly written by an American soldier in Iraq. It was touting the moral superiority of the United States as the best country in the world with lots of strong rhetoric, one of those “If you don’t support the Iraq War than you are not supporting the soldiers and you should move to another country” messages. Unfortunately or thankfully, I have blocked most of the actual content of the e-mail from my mind. It only took my husband a few minutes to find the original text on snopes.com . Apparently, the e-mail was comprised of a whole bunch of stuff taken out of context from a speech by some Australian dentist a few years before.

I think the only mass chain e-mail that I have sent on in the past three years was one that was supposed to raise money for breast cancer research, but I must admit that I have my doubts as to whether or not any money was actually donated. It has taken me thirty years, but I’ve finally realized that you really can only believe half of what you read. If anything good can be attributed to mass chain e-mails, it is that they have made more skeptical and more likely to take the time to see if there is more to a story than what I’m getting.

And while I don’t believe in capital punishment or torture, I am tempted to make an exception for those people who actually compose mass chain e-mails. I think there might be a special circle in hell just for you.

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