Back in the day, I’m talking the 70′s and 80′s, chain letters were in vogue. Every now and then we’d receive anonymous letters, written in recognizable penmanship, promising dire circumstances if we didn’t copy said snail mail over twenty times and send to our friends and relatives. My parents assured me that chain mail meant nothing and not to waste my time or stamps, but other friends and relatives were superstitious and we’d receive several a year.
I’m still alive.
Fast forward to the mid 80′s to the 90′s. Fax machines became the weapons of choice. Not only did we receive chain mail in our offices, but we also became the recipients of jokes, cartoons and funny little commiserations which we’d fax on to our friends and family or pin to the office bulletin board. The fax forwards seemed innocent enough. One copy per office, every now and then. It wasn’t harming anyone and no one was ever really annoyed by it unless it was something truly stupid. As it didn’t violate our mailboxes, we didn’t really care.
Email turned chain mail into an inconvenience and jokes and rants into a pain in the ass. “Send this rose to everyone in your inbox,” the emails warned, “or you’ll wind up in a South American prison for thirty years.” Oh, the Nigerian Scammers had nothing on the guilt inspired by a heartwrenching tale of lost loved ones or people who persevered despite the odds. “Show the people who love you how much you care by sending them this story.”
What if I don’t forward the email? Does this mean that I don’t care? Decisions, decisions.
Then there was the time that Bill Gates promised everyone who forwarded an email a computer, cash or other sundry items. Lordy, did people forward. As far as I can tell, they’re still waiting by their mailboxes to reap the rewards.
It got to the point where I just didn’t open up email that had “fwd. fwd. fwd.” in the subject line. In fact, the more forwards a subject line had, the less likely I was to open that puppy. Most of my friends and relatives caught on (usually after receiving their own flood of “forwards” every day) that no one really liked to receive these things. However, a few people persevered. They forwarded their roses, and warnings about the end of the world or terrorist attacks. They sent funny pictures and videos that none of us opened because they took too long to load and continued sending us those chain letters.
All I can say is thank goodness for social media.
Thanks to Twitter, I can click on a link to a viral video – or not -but it’s my choice and it’s not taking over my email. Thanks to Facebook I can learn of a funny blog post or story from my friends’ status, but I can ignore if necessary. I’m not directing certain friends and family members to a “special” email account because I know they’re going to send me crap, nor am I receiving and deleting “fwd.fwd.fwds” anymore.
The social networks saved us all from a lifetime of email garbage. Granted, we still have Viagra or the International Lottery to contend with, but my spam filter appears to have that under control. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t always set up my friend’s or relative’s email addresses as spam. People are a little touchy and sensitive when you say, “Look, I love you and would prefer to keep in touch, but if you send me another sob story that I have to forward to fifty people in my network, I’m banning you.”
So thank you, Twitter. Thank you ,Facebook. Thank you, YouTube. You saved my relationships. Thanks to you I don’t have to block the people I love. Thanks to you, I no longer have to deal with “The Forwards.”