Thursday, August 25, 2011

Make copies of this post and forward to 100 friends....or else!

I haven't ever understood the concept of chain mails and why they are propagated. My earliest memories of chain mails date back to my childhood - we used to get letters in the mailbox containing some prayers and instructions on how to copy the letter and mail to x number of people. They would typically have a nasty warning at the end about what would happen if the chain mail was discontinued (bad luck, money loss, loss of dear ones etc). I remember being uncomfortable, almost scared, with these threats but don't recall following the instructions out of fear.

The next thing you know these chain mails are on email. These mails typically contain either hoaxes (remember the killer spider in toilets!) or chicken soup for the soul type of text, and right at the end, the same old threats, just more polished and cloaked. "You owe it to your country to forward this to 10 of your friends." or "Send it to 8 people and wait for a surprise gift within 2 days" or  "Send this to 7 wonderful women in your life....and don't forget to include the sender of this mail!" What the f***! Not only do you want me to send to 10 people, but I must route it back to you too!

At first, I would open these forwards and check them out, deleting them only when I came across those cheesy instructions to forward. Soon, I would just delete any forwards that anyone sent. My poor mom learned her lesson the hard way. Now she forwards only the very interesting/funny/useful ones and writes a brief in the subject line so I will at least read it. 

The latest is Facebook. People have these status updates that are supposed to tug at your heart strings...about disabled kids, about cancer, about soldiers, about all kinds of illnesses. They always end with "Put this on your status (for 1 hour or 1 day) if you care". Listen, I care for most of these issues, but do not think putting these status updates will do anything positive. People who are affected by these issues live with them every minute and don't need reminders, and those who are not yet affected will not suddenly become kinder or more generous or sensitive because they have added some text in their FB status. 

I will copy a friend's status if I like it (and do it often) and I will certainly forward a useful/important mail to my close friends and family, but do I really need someone to tell me to do it? Surely I can think for myself and decide what I need to do with my resources. Or am I a moron who doesn't know what to put on her status or what to send to 10 wonderful whatevers unless you tell me to?

The real question is who gains anything from such chain mails or status updates? Whose agenda is this? Or is there no agenda but a human need? What human needs do such tactics meet that even though the medium of communication has changed so drastically, these tactics have remained almost unchanged? If you figure this out, please tell me.

In addition to telling me, you must let at least 10 most wonderful jackasses in your friends' circle. Of course, remember to keep yourself in the loop too. Only 3% of people will do it. Are you one of them? Do it - you owe it to your sacred country. Otherwise, everyone will know that you don't really...whatever. 


  1. Dear Puja,

    One of the reasons of the email forwards was for id harvesting.

    When you forward a mail, your id gets verified.

    Let us say a person X starts this mail and sends it to 10 people. Let us say 2 email ids are monitored and the rest 8 are not. These two further forward it 10 of their friends.From here on the number of monitored emails will be in the range of 95%, Let us say that person X receives back this email after 20 cycles of forward. Now this email contains 200 email ids that can be harvested and sold to interested email marketers.

    Remember, that this email, in the meantime has reached 20000000000000000000 ids. ( I am not joking. Do the maths - 2 emails sent 10 people iteratively 20 times comes to that number. There is a possibility that somebody might it get three or four times too. Even then, it is a huge number)

    Lots of electricity, bandwidth, emotions and time wasted to feed some stupid marketeer's greed!

    But forward on facebook beats me!!

  2. Thanks Aby. That explains at least one of them. Still wondering about snail chain mails and FB updates.