Facebook faux pas

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.

-V.

 

Oh. Btw. That recipe from the old lady in Tucson, AZ?

The cookies taste like shit.

 

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