I feel like I just stepped into a pile of dog pooh.
It’s a strange thing considering all I did was send out a funny video clip to 53 of my Facebook friends, but there you have it. I have an aversion to mass-forwards. The reason for this is simple.
Well, maybe not so simple.
See, I first got ‘net access back in 1996, when I was busy getting my Master’s degree in Library/Information Science. Back then I connected with a 56k modem via the University server, and came to discover the joys of e-mail and unlimited web access. Those were the days, lemme tell you. The information highway was uncharted territory, stretching out to all corners of cyberspace. I joined mailing lists, discussions groups, and online forums. My inbox filled with all manners of jokes, spam, and newsletter updates.
Then the strangeness began.
In 1997 I received a message from a nice little old lady in Tucson, Arizona, who complained about a 250.00$ charge on her credit card after she’d requested a cookie dough recipe from the waitress at a local coffeehouse. The Evil Franchise (*cough* Starbucks *cough*) had swindled her, and the best way for her to get even was to make sure every %&*@ inbox in the world got a copy of that recipe.
Also in 1997, I heard from little 9 year-old Billy/Jonathan/Samuel, who had a terminal case of Lymphoma/Creutzfeldt-Jakob/ADD. Little Billy/Jonathan/Samuel was asking me to please forward his touching and courageous e-story to all my friends, so he could live to see his name into the Guinness Book of World Records/Fund research to cure Mad Cow disease/Afford the pretty blue pills. Oh the kids nowadays.
In March 1998 I learned to my great surprise that I had dead relatives in Congo, represented post-mortem by a helpful chap named Mr. Mobotu, a highly credentialed international attorney. His e-mail was very hush-hush, but he did promise to forward my legal, tax-free inheritance of 120 Million Euros (tchatching!!) to a secure Swiss bank account if only I could provide him with the modest sum of $15,000 US to finance the secure transfer of funds through a reputable Belgian law firm.
Right. So I learned early on the importance of good inbox hygiene. High on the casualty list was that accursed, heretical scourge known as “the chain letter.” I deleted so many of these (and thereby accumulated so much bad luck) it’s a miracle I’m still alive today. Hell, by all rights I ought to be permanently confined to a hospital bed somewhere, wrapped in a full body cast, hooked up to a double catheter, possessing barely enough brain function to suck prune purée from a straw.
I also learned to filter my messages when I forwarded them to acquaintances. I began to debate who among my friends would get what. Soon I developed a supernatural, mutant-like sense of propriety – a keen and infallible intuition… an animal-like instinct that allowed me to deduce that my prissy boss might not enjoy the one about the sexy redhead, the donkey and the blind gynecologist. I was better off sticking to safer subjects, such as newsletters on the evils of alcohol, or lists of reasons why one should not trust a catholic.
So mass e-mails became unthinkable. I just wasn’t one of those guys… one of those fiends who sent bawdy jokes to nuns and grandmothers on his list. Monthly pin-up shots of ‘Chicks on Motorbikes’ were also out. The plethora of Penis/Breast enlargement opportunities posed a significant problem, requiring me to entertain the possibility of maintaining gender lists in my address book. And those anonymous free-trial advertisement with the subject heading “Watersports”? Well, I treated those with great suspicion after one accidental forward to my thesis adviser, a woman who professed a great passion for snorkeling.
(“Oops” is quite inadequate an expression when your name appears on a restraining order).
Well, those days are long past, and now we have Facebook, with its new opportunities for mass-forward chaos… with applications and games and invitations to god knows what virtual horrors dreamed up by the diseased minds of programmers everywhere. Alas, I foolishly believed myself immune to further slips. After years of being careful, of scrutinizing every e-mails, of evaluating the appeal and relevance of invitations to forums and websites, of weeding and selecting content before sending it out to shrewdly chosen individuals, I’ve finally done it again.
By a dumb click of the mouse, I have accidentally mass-forwarded.
Yes, yes, I know what you’re all saying. “Dude, it’s just a dumb e-joke.” Fiddlesticks! The Internet should come with an “I TAKE IT BACK!!!!” button.
Just for us control freaks.
Oh. Btw. That recipe from the old lady in Tucson, AZ?
The cookies taste like shit.