I like reading a funny e-mail as much as the next person, but I think 80 percent of e-mails that get passed around are junk. Many are chain letters that promise something exciting will happen if you forward the message to 10 people; these are, of course, lies. Others take aim at specific groups of people. I tend to delete junk forwards without looking at them, but in the past couple of years I have replied to three e-mails, all sent from relatives, that attacked Muslims and immigrants. The most recent one was about a supposed Muslim stamp that President Obama introduced. I exchanged a couple of messages with the sender, then checked out Snopes.com and found out the whole thing was false. No response when I pointed this out to the sender.
Even if your message is funny, I’m less likely to look at it if you send me five or six messages a day. Same with Facebook posts. Even if I’m interested in the topic, I’m going to scroll on by because reading everything takes too much time. I’m much more likely to pay attention if you post or e-mail once a day.
Petitions are another thing I think there should be limits on forwarding. I sign one or two per day, probably, but then I post them on Twitter or mention them on the blog. I don’t necessarily think my whole contact list will be interested in the same causes I am.
One of the reasons I started this blog with Rick is because I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of my political opinions on Facebook. I’m not ashamed of them, and I do make occasional posts that are political, but in general I don’t think a personal Facebook page is the proper outlet for passionate interests, whatever they are. I’m more interested in what and how you’re doing personally than a story I could find myself on CNN.com.
So here are a few general guidelines for today’s digital age:
1. Think twice before passing along an e-mail that targets a specific group of people (Muslims, Christians, men, women, the mentally ill, etc). You’re likely to make yourself look racist or sexist to at least one person. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and don’t send it.
2. Check Snopes for urban legends before passing along a message. Just because you get it in an e-mail doesn’t mean it’s true.
3. Keep in mind not everyone has a chance to constantly monitor her e-mail. Try to be considerate by passing along or posting one or two things a day instead of five or six, which can quickly clutter inboxes.
Are there any digital habits you wish people would rethink?