A real gift this holiday season...delete it.

Can I vent here for a moment about well meaning, but clearly out-of-the-loop, friends who seem to think everything on the Internet, especially when it comes to safety, is a real situation that needs our attention and should be sent to every mailing list they are on?

In the last three days I have received no less than ten alerts about everything from a new virus to how to avoid being carjacked. In every case, there has been an entry on snopes (or your favorite urban legend site) that dispelled, disproved or denied the issue from the well meaning friend. And most of these have been kicking around since the turn of the century.

This holiday season, as we present our friends and loved ones with new and wonderful gifts, let us all take a minute to educate them in the proper use of the search string, the search engine and the delete key.

In my case, that is the button where the lettering is completely worn off.

______________________

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

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Learn another lesson this season

Brian_'s picture

The lesson that needs to be learned here is that geeks need to learn how to operate in the real world. These people are sending this stuff to you because they are thinking about you and it's a way to feel like they are keeping in touch. If you try to "educate" them, as you suggest, you will only wind up alienating a friend or family member. They sent you something they thought you would be interested in, and you made them feel stupid for it.

I can already hear you saying, "they should appreciate that I am helping them get the correct info". Well, you're wrong. Outside of the geek realm, the idea of "correct info" is far less important than the idea of being nice to people and keeping in touch. Much of this takes the form of "useless" smalltalk, which is what this kind of email qualifies as.

"If they want to keep in touch with me, they can write an actual email to me instead of forwarding this stupid thing," you may also be thinking. Well, just like you that other person is busy and has about the same amount of time that you do to write a 2 page email explaining all the intricacies of their lives. This kind of email is what can keep the connection alive between the times when they can get around to doing that.

If you need a technical analogy, consider this kind of email a 'ping'.

As a geek you are used to fixing problems, but the real world is not something you can change. These are the rules, and no matter what you think and how hard you try to come up with a logical reason on why you are right, you are not. The real world is not like a computer where you can change the rules to fit your own world view.

With respect, I have to disagree...

David Lane's picture

Brian,

I would agree with your statement "These people are sending this stuff to you because they are thinking about you and it's a way to feel like they are keeping in touch" if I was the only one on the "forward list." I might even support your view, but when the to header is longer than the message itself and contains the names of people I have never even heard of (and I am fairly certain they have never heard of), then I have to disagree that they are "thinking of me" and simply forwarding junk because they don't know any better. What is worse is when it comes from people that I have only a passing relationship with at the best of times and wouldn't know if I fell over in the street.

I understand being busy. We are all busy. You don't have to write a multi-page email to "say hello" or "ping" someone and you certainly do not need to send crap...that is the last way to win friends.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

Same situation, but

user123's picture

Same situation, but different solution. I delete forwards -- including jokes, chain letters, virus warning, stories, both real and imagined, and security -- from "friends". I never tell them I did so. I learned that 12 years ago when I and most people were new to the Internet. Not much as changed since then, sadly.

Hopefully you won't have to spend your holiday time cleaning viruses and spyware off your relatives machines.

Yes...sadly

David Lane's picture

I actually do delete most of what I get, hence the state of my delete key.

No, I don't expect to be doing much cleaning...my wife knows better and the rest of my relatives are too far away for me to be of much help to them ;-)

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

?

Art's picture

Same thing in my inbox. How can we educate people to check those sites first?

Education

David Lane's picture

Sadly, email etiquette is not a regular course of instruction, either in school or in the business community. So, lacking that, it is up to those of us that have to deal with it to do the educating. I try to be gentle and point out when I see a new one from someone that I know that it is considered bad form to forward this sort of junk (it is, in many ways the same as a chain letter or, dare I say, virus) and suggest that they not do it again. Depending on their level of experience, I will suggest ways they can verify the information for themselves (besides just believing the now normally included "I checked this out on snopes and it is real"). If that still does not work, then I spam filter their email, which normally gets deleted before being read.

I have been tempted to put the hyperlink for this particular posting in my footer as well.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

I usually reply with: If you

charlie B's picture

I usually reply with:

If you ran Linux instead of windows you would not have to worry about such things!
along with instructions on the use of Bcc.

Well....

David Lane's picture

Yes, there are those out there who's grandparents are running Linux, but then, this is more a case of email etiquette and basic common sense...OS not withstanding. Some of the alerts have come from people I KNOW are running Linux...like the one on Christian music I got yesterday...or was that the day before...I have lost track.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

ProfBib's picture

David,

Well said! I deal with exactly the same problem on an almost daily basis with emails from my relatives...

Best,
Evan

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