Through work, I have contact with the General Public. Estimating conservatively, hundreds of people I barely know have my email address. This does not bother me, because 99.9% of them cause me no trouble at all. They use my address for the purpose for which I provided it to them, and then they go away and I never hear from them again. But some of them have my email address, have it in their address books, and then email everyone in their address book as soon as some hoax or glurge or Bill Clinton joke hits their mailbox.
When I get a forward from one of these people, I send off a quick response: “I do not appreciate this sort of email. If you will be forwarding messages to everyone in your address book, please take me out of it. I’m still happy to answer any questions you have about [legitmate subjects X, Y, and Z.]”
You’d think I’d pissed on their hard drive.
“Well I’m so sorry. I thought that this was valuable information everyone could use.” “How did this hurt you? I should be able to send you any worthless crap any time I want. I have a right to free speech! If it’s not actually causing your eyes to bleed, I have done no wrong.” “What, are you some kind of SATANIST that you don’t want to read the touching devotional story I sent to you personally and six hundred other people?” “You are incredibly rude to ask that I, a stranger, not forward email about random topics to you whenever I feel like it.” “How dare you respond to this fake virus warning with anything other than gushing gratitude?” (Obviously, I have corrected spelling, punctuation, and capitalization for the benefit of you, the Gentle Reader.)
Oh, my god, you’re right! I’m a cold-hearted, obnoxious, and mentally deficient not to realize that you are performing a Valuable Public Service! By sending everything that hits your inbox to every email address you can scrounge up, you are Doing the Lord’s Work. You are Spreading a Little Sunshine in an otherwise dreary world. You are Informing the Uninformed, Righting Wrongs, and stirring up Justifiable Moral Outrage with every randomly-capitalized, carriage-return-ridden, misspelling-laden message you pass along to your grateful correspondents!
I should just open up and swallow this endless stream of random-monkey-generated effluent! And I should thank you for taking the time to forward these little dumplings of wisdom to everyone. Do you stop at just the people who you know well? Garsh no! Are you one of those small-minded fools who will only forward such life-saving and inspirational messages to people you know you will appreciate them? Fie! Your personal concern for my personal life brings me to tears.
By the way, keep up the good work with those little one-line comments: “I usually don’t pass this sort of thing along, but this is a great cause!” “Every woman in America should this message!” “Check this out! You won’t be sorry!” Without your insightful commentary, I’d hardly know whether to read this insufferable crap or not! By the way, don’t ever delete all the >>>>>'s–they form such a lovely decorative border and enhance readability! Sure they do! Plus, it’s vital for me to see the header of everybody who has received this message in the past three years. Yup! Let me be next in line to thank you for all the hard work and effort you’ve put forth on my behalf.
Bless you, St. Forwarder! You’ll be in my prayers tonight.