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(From “Non Sequitur,” by Wiley Miller, December 17, 2009 )

Do you get as many “forwarded” e-mails or other communications – (even gossip) – as I do?  It seems as though every day I get at least 5 or so.  These e-mails often come with certain provisos, such as:  “Forward this to at least 10 of your friends, and you will receive a wonderful surprise,” or “Forward this to 10 people and your wish will come true,” or “If you do not forward this message you will be doing your friends and family a terrible disservice,” or even (the worst of all) “Forward this e-mail to all your friends and God will answer this prayer.”  (God always answers anyway – why not go straight to the Source and listen instead of relying on magic?) Also, the ones that tell you to forward so that you can spread the “truth” about certain situations, causes, or issues.  When I first started blogging I mentioned that “truth” was one of the things about which I was going to share some thoughts.  Now is not the time for that – big sigh of relief perhaps on your part – but suffice it to say that the “truth” can be a very slippery thing to try and hold on to!

Some months ago I made the rather large mistake of forwarding a warning about the dangers of some such thing…I’ve forgotten now what it was.  I was quickly informed that  the information was entirely false, and that many, if not most, e-mails that are forwarded with instructions to “forward this e-mail to at least 10 of your friends” are almost invariably a ruse in order to be able to hack into your e-mail address list, and thereby to propagate more spam. That goes even for the mailings from people who are or call themselves Christians, and who are asking for prayers for friends, family or neighbors who are seriously ill or in need of blood or transplants, as well as the “funny” ones and those seemingly innocuous i-Tunes “shares,” etc.  Always be very wary of such requests.  Even if you know the sender to be an honest person,. they might have been duped in the same way. (That’s how Ponzi schemes start out…friends giving friends supposedly “reliable” information and thus causing financial disaster or ruin to many – remember Bernie Madoff!)

The best way to send these types of e-mails – even the ones that you are sure of – is NOT to send it on by pressing the “forward” button, but to copy the body of the mailing, leave out all the lists of forwarded addresses, and then paste it into a new e-mail message to one friend at a time.  It may take you a little longer to do this, but in the end your friends will be grateful, because that way, you are not sending out, over and over again, the addresses of your and your friends’ contacts, who are then made more subject to spam and even dangerous threats to privacy.

Whenever you receive one of the mailings, please check it out at Snopes.com or any of the other reputable research sites.  These sites are set up for that reason – to stop the dissemination of false, misleading, and/or inaccurate information.  There is so much propaganda in our nation and world these days, and it comes from all sides of any issue or situation.  It is incumbent upon us as responsible citizens to play as small a part in this scheme as possible.  There are enough truly dangerous and scary things in the world already, without creating any more out of whole cloth!

On a more personal note:  unless you are absolutely certain of the political and/or religious persuasion of the person you are sending messages to, please do not send things that might possibly offend the receiver – unless you are certain beyond any doubt of its veracity!  Ashley and I cannot begin to count how many absolutely disgusting and totally false messages we received during the last presidential election campaign from well-meaning friends and relatives.  Almost all of these e-mails were “forwards” that had been circulating for months (if not years), and had never been researched.  Because they spoke to the bias of the individual sending them on, they were taken and often received by some as absolute truth!  As difficult as I find it to listen to ultra-conservative commentators, I do try and make it a policy to listen to those with whom I disagree on political and social issues, or even faith issues, because I feel it is important to explore all sides of question or a topic.  However, the ones to whom I listen are responsible journalists or thoughtful people who have invested time and energy into researching their evidence and do not offer diatribes or character assassination on people with whom they disagree.  Civil discourse is welcome – lies, lible, and blasphemy are not (even if you agree with it!).

I feel qualified to sermonize on this subject, because I have been a perpetrator as well as a victim.  Please consider this posting as friendly advice and not as recrimination against those of you who may have sent these sorts of e-mails to me in the past.  When I receive one, I immediately check it out, and then send the results of the research to the person who mailed it, and request that they then inform the others to whom they sent it, as well as the person from whom they received it.

Let us all as a nation take upon ourselves the mantle of truth – (as difficult a task ferreting it out may sometimes seem) – and ask ourselves each time we give out information in any form:  “Is it true?  Is it honest?  Is it loving?  Is it kind?  Is it helpful?”

Thanks for reading.  As much as I use and enjoy the internet, it can be a very peculiar and disconcerting beast, even if it can bring me “perpetual bliss!”

As ever, Gentle Reader, I wish you

enough…

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