Forward with care

When I first opened an e-mail account in the 1990s, it was a Hotmail account. I used to receive forwards from my friends, which I would actually open, read and spend time over. This was because of the novelty of the whole thing, we got so few emails every day that even something from an anonymous source was welcome.

Forward with care

How the time has changed. Today, at the top of the list of things that I just don’t want others to share with me are e-mail forwards. It’s not that I have something against them as such. We all get forwards and often we send forwards to others, but I am acutely conscious of the how much of a waste of resources they can be.

Some forwards are cute, but many make assertions, which are at unverifiable and often malicious. Heard about the latest offer from Microsoft that sounds too good to be true? It is. I also take exception to mails that say: “Please FORWARD to everyone you know”. Sometimes, bad grammar and spelling is enough to alert me to Google it and find out more about the mail.

Got a mail that says, “This is not a hoax?” I would not bet my money on it. When I get a forward, I am curious to know if it is true. I want to test the claims being made by an anonymous stranger who sent the mail to my friend and me. Often when a mail makes a claim that I suspect, I go to one of websites that track down such things.

Snopes is a common default. Searching the content of the mail on “Snopes” often exposes a fake email as an urban legend. Another site, “Truth or Fiction” also exposes latest hoaxes, as does “Hoax Slayer”.

Why do I go through this exercise? Because sometime I like a mail, I want to forward it to my friends, but I want to ensure that what I am sending is true. They will believe that because I sent it, the information must be correct, and thus my credibility is at stake here.

Now that I have found that the mail is OK, and I want to forward it, I still have some precautions to take. I click the “Forward” link in my web mail so that I have full editorial control over the mail and clean it before I sent it out.

What does that mean? Well, it means that I first change the subject and remove FW:….. automatically comes when you forward any e-mail. Sometimes, you see FW: FW: FW: which shows how many times the mail has been forwarded. On such a mail, the information is also repeated. I delete all that is not required so that my friends do not have to waste their time.

I also remove all the email addresses of other people who received the mail before me. I do not want their addresses circulating on the Net. I then send the mail to myself and use the BCC: (blind carbon copy) field for listing the e-mail addresses. This way those who receive the mail don’t see other addresses, and I preserve the privacy of my friends.

What is it that I never forward or reply to? Chain letters, including those which portend to be about a cause, the email petitions. Why? An email petition talks about an issue and asks for your support by forwarding it to your friends. You do so, and thus add to a chain letter that contains hundreds, at times thousands of addresses, which can be harvested by spammers and others with malicious intent. Email petitions do not work and they just are a great scam.

My friends Gupi and Mandy send me forwards. They are often interesting and I like going thought them.

Recently, Gupi asked me: “How did you like my forward?” I happily admitted that I enjoyed it. “I knew you would,” he retorted, “I only send you selected ones, which I know will be of interest to you.”

Now, that’s the kind of sharing I love, in which the person has taken care of your interest and protected your privacy. That’s what we should all be like.

This article by Roopinder Singh was published in the Lifestyle section of The Tribune on April 17, 2010

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