What's wrong with Internet Glurge?

I’m hoping the Teeming Millions can help me with a personal problem. I have a good friend who happens to be one of those people who likes to forward on to everyone she knows (self included) virtually any piece of junk e-mail that happens to land in her inbox. It has gotten to the point where anytime I get an e-mail from her I automatically go to snopes.com and do a search, and sure enough, there it is. The two most recent are a kid named Christopher John Mineo who is supposedly missing, but apparently never was, and the Taliban e-mail petition. In my disarming way, I helpfully e-mail her back, with links to the relevant pages on snopes explaining that this kid was never missing, and may not even exist, or that the Taliban rarely reads their e-mail. Anyway, she just replied, rather snippily, to the effect that it probably takes it longer for me find out the e-mails are false than it does for her to forward them (a few seconds, she claims). “If it’s true (the e-mails), than it will be worth it”.
Coupla points here:

  1. I am a fairly efficient Internet searcher. It probably took me a total of 90 seconds, combined, to find sources effectively debunking her last two e-mails. It must have taken her at least that long to address them.
  2. This person is truly a close friend of mine, someone who I like and respect, and have been close to for over twelve years. Our friendship means more to me than any stupid e-mails, so I will, of course, “lighten up”.
  3. Having said that, she is also (like me), a scientist, a good scientist, and one would think she would have at least a passing interest in Fighting Ignorance, in all its diverse forms.
  4. What I need from the Teeming Millions is reasons why Internet e-mailed Glurge is a plague upon humanity, a scourge of civilization on a level not seen since baseball games began to be regularly played on artificial turf. Does it use up precious bandwith? Waste electrons that might otherwise be used for other purposes? Our do I need to just relax and get a life?

No, you should not relax, and if she keeps sending the stuff, you should seriously reconsider your friendship with this person.

What’s wrong with it? It is false information pretending to be true. More than not, it does a good of pretending, and comes across as real.

Not only is it simply false information (which, when perpetuated, I believe to be a major cause of societal stupidity), but usually there is some political agenda behind it, if you read between the lines. A political agenda reinforced by false tales is a dangerous thing in a democracy filled with primarily stupid people.

Excuse me a second while I :rolleyes:

There. I feel better already.

I guess the thing to ask here is why do you go out of your way to find out if they are true or not? The reason is because it seems that to you, spreading things that are not true is not a Good Thing, and that is very admirable of you. :slight_smile: I would ask her why a “good scientist” thinks little of spreading glurge, rather than either trying to determine if it is true, or simply ignoring it.

And yes, it does take bandwidth. It is a cascading problem - you would not believe how many e-mails eventually build up from crap like this. My company, in the mail servers in one building, processes about 300,000 pieces of incoming or outgoing e-mail a day. According to the mail admin, who I was talking with last month, nearly 20% of it is glurge, chain letters, “Make money fast”, or “Hot Asian sluts in your Inbox” type crap. And this is what makes it past the filters! He didn’t have a firm idea of how much was blocked, but he estimated something close to 200,000 - 300,000 mails a day were blocked by the glurge, spam, and porn filters. A lot of this is a cumulative effect of 3500 people saying “oh, I’ll just forward this on, it won’t hurt anything…”

So…ask her. Why she loses her scientific curiosity and objectivity when faced with Internet glurge, and why she doesn’t understand the Death of a 10,000 Papercuts resulting from worthless e-mails.

I suggest you do the following. Every morning, find a good story on Snopes. Then walk over to your friend’s office (or call her up) and tell her the story without any preamble or discussion. “Say, I thought you might like to hear the story of little Timmy. It seems that…”

See how long you can keep this up till she starts twitching every time she sees you.

Reasons why glurges are evil:

-They’re rude. Real friends don’t send their buddies random scraps of undigested trivia that eat up their precious time. Real friends converse. (Note the difference between mutually consenting trivia traders here on SD and the typical glurge. We’re having a conversation, whereas glurges are usually one-way pitches of some sort.)

-They’re spam. Spam is by definition unsolicited mail of no interest to the recipient. Same as a glurge.

-False glurges are just make it harder for news about real issues to spread.

-You shouldn’t send false glurges because if the person on the other end finds out they’re false, they’re going to start to distrust you, the forwarder, not whoever wrote the original glurge. To preserve your own reputation, you shouldn’t pass along information you’re not willing to vouch for. (You’d think scientists would understand this.)

Anth, your summation of the situation was great. I’m just curious, based on the volume you mention - how big is your company (in terms of # of employees)? Feel free to blow me off if the question introduces any security concerns on your part.

“If it’s true (the e-mails), than it will be worth it”.
That’s a moron’s way of conveying their belief in Pascal’s wager (which is stupid anyway).

Well, this is just one mailserver - I have no idea about the overall volume for the company. This mailserver serves, over multiple buildings in the area, more than 3000 people.

That works out to be 100 exchanges a day per person, average. While that sounds like a lot, consider the following guestimates:

  • I get about 20-30 mails a day which are mass mailings telling about one project or another that means nothing to me, about our stock price, about the latest United Way extortion, the cafeteria menu for the day, the corrected menu 10 minutes later, etc.

  • About once every day some idiot hits “Reply to All”, and sends out a few thousand e-mails telling about his plans to protest about the parking police, or asking some innane question…

  • I personally get about 50-200 e-mails a day in my Inbox. I must respond to about half of those, since I manage multiple projects and my e-mail typically has a high signal/noise ratio. A friend who is a secretary gets more than 1000 a day typically, as she is a focal point for messages. She spends nearly all day answering them.

Many of the mails are simple and stupid. This is a paraphrased example from last Tuesday, of a 12-mail exchange over 3 minutes.

Mail 1: “Did you send the proposal to so-and-so yet?”

Me: “No.”

Mail 2: “Why not?”

Me: “Because I’m not done.”

Mail 3: “Why aren’t you done?”

Me: “What answer do you want to hear?”

Mail 4: “You do realize how important X is, don’t you?”

Me: “Yes. What is your point?”

Mail 5: “You need to send the proposal.”

Me: “I assure you, as soon as it is done, it will in fact be sent.”

Mail 6: “OK, just so we’re clear.”

Me: “Crystal.”

With people like me doing shit like this, it’s no wonder our mail server cries. And my Outlook folders are about 150 MB…

So THAT’S why my cable modem is slow…all of this junk mail going across the net. Spare your friend’s feelings, get a new e-mail address that you will NEVER use, give that person the address, and let them send all they want. Either that or BLOCK SENDER.

So, she encourages sending it because it’s easier to send misinformation than information? Ask her why she doesn’t take this approach with her work.

Sounds to me like you need to tell her to stop sending you the bloody emails. If you say it firmly, and she is a friend as you say, she will stop. End of story. No reasons required.

If you respect her, then it only stands to reason that she should respect you. A few years ago a friend of mine, new to the Internet, started forwarding crap to me such as chain letters and various misinformation. I waited for a few months to see if she’d stop, and she didn’t. So I politely asked her to stop doing it and gave her reasons why she should stop - like it uses up bandwidth, it wastes my time, etc. - and she did. Maybe your friend will show you the same courtesy.

Coming from a scientist, this attitude baffles me. It takes a lot less time for me to just pull a bunch of made-up numbers out of my butt and pass them off as experimental data than to actually perform an experiment properly. Which does she value more, time or truth? If the former, she could be management material!

Please allow me to join Anthracite in her :rolleyes:. Were it not for the fact that it would get you in trouble, I’d recommend pulling the fire alarm every day while giving the same excuse.


Been there, done that. One friend in particular seemed to work on the principle of “a glurge a day…” until I was about ready to chase her down and nail her spleen to my wall as a trophy. I am not a doctor. I wouldn’t have a clue what the spleen actually looks like, so I just planned on taking a whole buncha things on the theory that one of them would be her spleen.

I got her to cut down by sending an email that said something like, “You’re a good friend, but if you don’t stop clogging up my inbox with this shite, you’re going to be functioning without a spleen. And some other stuff too.” We’re good friends, she knows what I’m like, so I can say things like that and get away with it. :wink:

After the “splenectomy email” she started using me as her email filter/research assistant. “Is this true? Should I send this out?”

Eventually she quit sending glurge, mostly because my emails back consisted of two words. “Nope. Hoax.” and she worked out for herself that glurge = crap. Now, she just sends me off-colour jokes, which I quite like.

Don’t know if you want to go to that extent, but it worked for me.

I had to tell my aunt that if she wanted to send me a family update or chat with me, that was great. But that my e-mail was so full, I didn’t have space for preachy stories. It worked!

Of course, she still preaches to me in person. Sigh.


My name is Billy Evans. I am a very sick little boy. My mother is
typing this for me, because I can’t. She is crying. The reason she
is so sad is because I’m so sick. I was born without a body. It
doesn’t hurt, except when I try to breathe. The doctors gave me an
artificial body. It is a burlap bag filled with leaves. The doctors
said that was the best they could do on account of us having no money
or insurance. I would like to have a body transplant, but we need more money.
Mommy doesn’t work because she said nobody hires crying people. I said,
“Don’t cry, Mommy,” and she hugged my burlap bag. Mommy always gives
me hugs, even though she’s allergic to burlap and it makes her sneeze
and chafes her real bad. I hope you will help me. You can help me if
you forward this email to everyone you know. Forward it to people you don’t
know, too. Dr. Johansen said that for every person you forward this email
to, Bill Gates will team up with Disney World and send a nickel to NASA. With that funding, NASA will
collect prayers from school children all over America and have the
astronauts take them up into space so that the angels can hear them
better. Then they will come back to earth and go to the Pope, and he
will take up a collection in church and send all the money to the
doctors. The doctors could help me get better then. Maybe one day I
will be able to play baseball. Right now I can only be third base. Every time
you forward this letter, the astronauts can take more
prayers to the angels and my dream will be closer to coming true. Please help
me. Mommy is so sad, and I want a body. I don’t want my
leaves to rot before I turn 10. If you don’t forward this email, that’s okay. Mommy says you’re a
mean and heartless bastard who doesn’t care about a poor little boy
with only a head. She says that if you don’t stew in the raw pit of
your own guilt-ridden stomach, she hopes you die a long slow horrible
death and then burn forever in hell. What kind of cruel person are
you that you can’t take five freakin’ minutes to forward this to all
your friends so that they can feel guilt and shame about ignoring a
poor, bodiless nine-year-old boy? Please help me. I try to be happy, but it’s hard. I wish I had a
kitty. I wish I could hold a kitty. I wish I could hold a kitty that
wouldn’t chew on me and try to bury its turds in the leaves of my burlap body. I wish that very much.
Thank You,
Billy “Smiley” Evans
Appeal to your freind, as a scientist, to do something to help this boy!

Maybe, just maybe, she’ll get the point.

(Above glurge courtesy of Fathom)

Being an email administrator, I hate glurge. I even hat anti-glurge on my servers. That little vignette above caused a mail loop when one of my cow-orkers forwarded it to a colleagues account and his server bounced it as a hoax. Please stope sending this stuf to or from business accounts. Use hotmail and only send it to aol or webmail servers. They deserver to die.

I have handled this by effectively killfiling the people who do it. Set up a mail filter to automatically dump all mail from that person to a folder, and don’t bother to go to that folder often.

I did this with one person who sent me a mix of glurge and mission-critical (in his mind) emails. When I quit responding to his real mail, he got irate. My response was “I get so much crap from you that I don’t have time to filter out the real stuff. I’ll get around to it.” Ultimately, I agreed to let him label his trivia in the subject line and filter accordingly, and this made him stop. The very act of labeling each mail as meaningless eventually wore him down.

I’ve also punished this sort of behavior by replying with massive files, as in “Thanks for the compelling story about little Timmy. Here’s a linux installation set I thought you might need.” This approach is less effective now that high-bandwidth connections are widespread, but can still be amusing.

My last approach to this is a variation on the first. For one offender, I tracked the accuracy of his emails. A work-related email counted; a story about little Timmy didn’t. I “autoreplied” to every message with a line like “Your current accuracy rating is 34%. Your mail is being queued until you reach 50% at which point your mail will be processed.” I refused to answer anything if his score fell below 50%. This was more time consuming on my end, but everyone needs a hobby.

I used a variation of Micco’s approach and it got my coworker to stop forwarding every joke he got. He does it occassionally, but he learned to take me off of his mailing list.

I don’t know about your friend’s political/religious persuations, but on today’s 700 Club, Gordan Robertson complained about internet UL’s, going out of his way to state that things like the “President Bush witnessing to a teenager” story are false.

The current lead story on the CBN website is Urban Legends: Fact, Fiction, and Faith – maybe this will help – it even includes a link to Snopes.

My sister is a big forwarder of glurge. I asked her to stop to no avail. I started debunking everything she sent, which didn’t stop her, either. Then I started forwarding my debunkings to everyone she forwarded the original message to. That made her look stupid, so she stopped sending them to me (but she still sends them to others).