Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fw: Random Acts of Spamness

If you’re like me, you receive tons of junk mail in your (snail) mail box every day. I know I bring some of this on myself, because I’m a catalogue shopper. And it really doesn’t bother me too much, since it only takes a minute or two to toss it in the trash, after weeding out the goodies, like Bed Bath & Beyond’s 20% off coupon.

And now that I’ve got Gmail, I get very little junk mail, compared with the amount I got when using Yahoo. Most of it lands in my Spam box anyway. But here’s what’s bothering me. It’s the random acts of Spamness that arrive in my inbox, often from friends, so I know I might be stepping on some toes here.

Several times a day I see these two dreaded letters in the subject box, “Fw:” You know the "Fw:"s I'm talking about:
Sometimes it’s 500 pictures of precious baby animals.
Or a sentimental poem about best friends or mothers and children.
Or maybe a warning about a catastrophic internet virus that turns out to be an urban legend.

The point is, it arrives uninvited into my personal inbox, where it takes up my time because I have to do something about it. I can delete it without opening it, but then I take the chance that it might actually be something personal and valid. So I usually open it, see that it’s not something worth my time, and delete it. Without a pang of guilt as I ignore the final sentence, which often reads something like this, “Please send this to everyone you know immediately.” Not going to happen. Ever. Even if it tells me that baby animals will die if I don't do it. I don't like threats.

I’m a writer and I work out of my home. Even so, I receive close to 50 emails some days. My husband, who is a physician, gets several times more emails a day than that. I can imagine the crowded email boxes of lots of folks who are in business, marketing, and other arenas which thrive on use of the social media.

So, I’m asking: How do you deal with these random acts of Spamness? Do you censor the people who send you this stuff on a regular basis? Do you mark them as Spam? If you do, does that block those people from sending actual real, personal emails? How is this different than looking at your Caller ID before answering your phone, and deciding whether or not to answer it? Please leave a comment--I'd love to know your thoughts. I promise I won't consider them to be Spam!


Anonymous said...

i tend to read all the "forwards" i get, unless i can tell from the title that it's completely pointless (which doesn't happen often). i guess i do this because 1) i don't want to hurt people's feelings if it's something they actually want me to read, and 2) you never know through what medium God may choose to speak. after reading the message, i decide whether to send it on as is, send it on with a few edits (for instance, taking out the "pass this on to 50 people in the next 5 minutes" bits), or just trash it.

that being said, "forwards" are definitely last on my email "to do" list. i probably have 30-50 unread "forwards" in my inbox right now, and they'll probably be there until June. :P

--katie e.

priscilla (little Prisca) said...

On my office computer I get a few male enhancement offers. The network has a delivery each morning to my 'puter listing the emails which the system has flagged as suspect [as does our mindspring accounts: only on a schedule we choose]. I can't tell you how many times I've had to release your blog, Dynamis and goarch updates.
So it works both way.
Really depends on the "spam filter" utility used by your server.

Susan Cushman said...

I appreciate your comment, Katie, that "you never know what medium God may choose to speak" through. ANd yes, even some of those sentimental poems and pictures are sweet and can be "uplifting" at times. But I know where to find them if I want them. When they arrive, uninvited, in my inbox, they still feel like a Jehovah's Witness knocking on my door. Thanks for commenting!

And Priscilla, I used to get lots of male enhancement spam, too, especially when my email address was "sinfulmarye" (what was I thnking?) ... but the "spam" I'm talking about here isn't the true junk mail that lands in the junk box, it's the endless "FW:"s from well meaning people thinking it will brighten my day. Mine and few hundred of my best friends.

But I'm sorry my blog has trouble getting through your filter at times. I'll try to clean up my act... but I'm not promising:-)

james said...

watch out Andy Rooney!

Christian said...

Most spam blockers block based on the email address. So, if you mark a message from someone you personally know as spam, all of their subsequent messages to you will go to your spam box. So, for example, if I were to send you a silly forward and you marked it as spam, anything I sent you after than (including personal messages that you would want to see) would also be marked as spam and you wouldn't be able to see them. If it's really ruining your day, you could respond to such forwards and tell the sender that you don't want that kind of mail. But most people really are well-meaning when they send such things. Even I, once or twice a year, find something that is actually worth forwarding. You probably stand to lose more than gain by asking people not to forward things, primarily because you might hurt someone's feelings. I get tons and tons of email everyday from various email lists, etc. I just quickly scan and delete and move on to what I need to focus on. It really doesn't take that much time.

Erin said...

Oops! That was Erin and not Christian posting the previous comment. I was signed in has my husband!

Susan Cushman said...

Well said, Erin. I guess this post sounded like a huge over-reaction to some folks.... but obviously not to some of my regular well-meaning forwarders, 'cause the hits just keep on coming:-)

forgive me.