Hold it, hold it, hold it. Before you click that [Forward] button, check the veracity first.


Subjects of these email hoaxes, such as charitable organizations (Make-A-Wish doesn't want your business cards, I promise) and police departments (nobody was abducted at the mall in Columbus), have to divert personnel and resources to take care of the unbelievable volume of calls and mail they receive.


Perhaps the reason urban legend debunking was on my mind is the Grimms' fairy tales I've been reading—in all their gruesome glory. But are these abysmally written forwards cautionary tales? They're not teaching much in the way of morals, if they are. Instead, they seem to tap into the same sensationalist part of our psyche that likes afternoon talk shows and reality tv. Plus, "if it's true, I'll be doing a great service, and if it's false, it's not doing any harm," is a compelling rationale.


Not doing any harm? Surely the rash of MS Outlook viruses that use your address book and masquerade as spam show the way we've made ourselves susceptible by allowing this garbage to propagate, lowering our defenses on suspicious-looking email. And what of truth? Quotes, passages, missives are attributed to the wrong people or no one at all (Max Ehrmann wrote the Desiderata), a theft that makes me hestitant to publish my writing online. Politicians are libelously smeared, and then we make decisions about the governing of our country based on these lies. Above all, if you lose your intelligent skepticism, you become just another pillowcase to be exploited by the shysters.


But the biggest reason not to forward junk email, hoaxes, "jokes," and net-drek is that I won't read your messages.

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