There is a disease that afflicts almost all of us email users and we don’t even realize it. It’s called Obsessive Compulsive Forwarding (OCF). The moment we get a mail that’s not personal, we feel like forwarding it to as many people as we can. Thank God we don’t have to pay for every email we send!
But there are many reasons why I dislike this random forwarding without thinking…
1. Check your facts: Nowadays I’ve seen, an email forward has more weight than the Encyclopedia Britannica. And it’s almost like eGoebbels. Take a Falsehood in an email and forward it a million times and it becomes a Truth. The greater the initial falsehood, the greater the eventual truth. Some examples:
a. The Stanford Story: There’s one which begins: “A lady in a faded grey dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun suit walked in timidly without an appointment into the Harvard University President’s outer office…” It then goes to tell how a certain Mr and Mrs Stanford were rebuffed because of their appearance and went on to form the now famous Stanford University, with a tagline like: “Never judge a book by its cover” or “How our inner Ego sometimes misjudges a Person”.
Fact: Leland Stanford was the Governor of California and a very successful businessman! The President of Harvard would have needed an appointment to walk into Mr Stanford’s office. The truth is that Stanford merely enquired with Harvard on the cost of setting up a new university. How that morphed into the above story, God only knows.
b. The NASA Indians: Anywhere between 36-42% of people working with NASA are supposed to be Indians. This email has been floating for years. While people believing it is fine, last year a minister raised it in Parliament! While the minister raised a lot of flak and I thought I had seen the last of it. Then recently the li’l host of Sa Re Ga Ma Li’l Champs mentioned it again! Sometimes you’ve to use your head to verify facts. Aren’t there so many Indian Americans in the news nowadays? M Night Shyamalan, Bobby Jindal, Kal Penn, Kalpana Chawla…. That’s the result of a mere near 1% of America’s population being Indian American. 42% at NASA would be astronomical! For all you know, maybe it’s 3.6% and a typo made it 36% and that error got forwarded a million times!
c. Unique Bangalore: Then there’s one floating about how unique Bangalore is. For one Bangalore is the fastest growing city in Asia (I’ve been hearing that for 10-15 years now and I don’t know how it started. Bangalore usually comes as the second or third fastest growing city in India in most of the surveys I read, dunno about Asia.) It also says that close to half a million Bangaloreans are foreigners. Do a bit of Maths and you’ll find that that means every 12th or 14th person you see should be a foreigner. And yet I go for days without sighting a single foreigner in Bangalore! The last point is absolutely loony. “Bangalore is the city of girls, dogs and software engineers”. What crap! Girls, boys and dogs are present in every Indian city and town and software engineers are present in good numbers in Hyderabad, Pune, Gurgaon… How in heaven’s name can that be a unique fact?
2. Don’t wish your friends bad luck: Why are people so scared when they get a message saying: “If you don’t forward this to 10 people then a ton of bad luck will fall on you!”
Even the non-superstitious type fall for that. When you add the millions of mails that are forwarded like this, aren’t they merely spam? Plus most never forward these things, so when you send one to such people, aren’t you merely wishing them bad luck?
3. Obscenity and Modesty: There are some forwards which are plain obscene. It could be a very vulgar joke. Some people in your mailing list could be sensitive. Or if it is a really gruesome image, then what happens when the person checks the mail during lunch hour. Might he or she not feel like throwing up?
4. Privacy and Aesthetics: Finally, when you forward, an ugly looking Fwd: is attached to the subject line. Then another gets added… sometimes I see 6-7 FWds: in the subject line. What stops people from deleting all those Fwds and sending a clean subject line? Some people don’t even bother to delete all those email IDs that become part of the message. I definitely wouldn’t want my email ID going public! It takes just a little time to delete all those email IDs and forwards. You can also suppress your email list or simply email yourself and put everyone in the bcc field.
So next time you forward, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is it factually correct?
2. Am I merely being superstitious?
3. Am I merely spamming?
4. Am I being obscene or offensive?
5. Am I giving out private emails IDs in a public forum?
Of course, if someone is an Obsessive Compulsive Forwarder, then there is no hope.
Just pray that email service remains free for life!
© Sunil Rajguru