FWD—Check It Out First
- Your help is needed to warn others that if they open an email with the subject line, "Hot news for you," a virus in the note will destroy their hard-drive.
- A software company is paying people to test its new email-tracking software.
- An unsuspecting traveler got knocked out by a doped drink. He woke up in a tub of ice, and his kidneys had been stolen.
- An inspiring "true" story should be sent to at least 10 people, or you'll have bad luck.
You've undoubtedly received emails with messages like the ones above, and perhaps you've also seen seen similar messages online. And, if you're like many people, you forwarded or shared the messages "just in case." Well, I'd like to propose a moratorium on all "just in case" forwarding and sharing.
A Junk Primer
The examples above are junk. They clog the Internet and waste countless work hours and leisure hours.
The first example is a classic virus hoax. Computer viruses are not transmitted by text-only files, so these notes should only be "forwarded" to the trash. (Note, though, that viruses can be transmitted through attached files, so be wary of any attachment, especially from an unknown source.)
I've received numerous emails demonstrating the second example. Some said Microsoft was offering trips to Disneyland; others said AOL was paying cash. Since most people don't edit the emails they forward, this kind of message usually arrives with pages worth of extraneous headers detailing everyone who's received the email to-date, plus notes from people saying "it's worth a try." It's not. No company is going to pay people to share emails or posts–especially when everyone does it so willingly for free.
The third example is a classic urban legend. These stories allegedly happened to the friend or relative of the original writer, and they're filled with realistic details. But they're still just stories. Sharing them on will not save anyone from organ thieves, fried rats at the local fast-food joint, or being tricked into spending $250 for a cookie recipe.
The final example is one I consider particularly insidious. The stories may be heartening. But I cringe when the ending says they should be forwarded so good things will happen. Even if it doesn't explicitly say bad things will happen if you don't forward the note, that threat is implied. So when you want to share the story, at least cut out the curse.
Check It or Chuck It
Take the pledge to verify any questionable content before you share it to others. There are plenty of websites devoted to exposing hoaxes and urban legends, including the following:
If you won't take the time to check it out, then please don't take the time to forward or share it. Because that would waste the time of everyone on your recipient list.