Saturday, July 08, 2006

Email Superstitions

Email superstitions

Email is undoubtedly has become an indispensable medium of communication. We come across some emails which are forwarded without any second thought. These mails won’t have a logical backing, nor any material evidence or accountability. Someone says something; people believe it and forward it. Though superstition may seem a little strong word for this scenario, I call it Email superstitions.

While composing this post I was chatting with my BE classmate Satish, who on hearing “Email Superstitions” immediately said “It’s about forwards right?” Partially true. I’m not commenting on all forwards but a few typical ones.

Case I

“I’m XYZ (Some sweet name and generally very young age), I’m very poor… I’m suffering from cancer (Or some other big disease). The treatment costs $ xxxxxx. I approached AOL (or some other big company) who’ve agreed to pay $ 1 every time this mail if forwarded. Please forward this to everyone you know. If you don’t, you don’t have a heart…”

Before I proceed let me make it very clear-I’m not against helping others. I’m always willing to contribute, but in situations like above, I can’t accept the statement in its present form. Consider these:

1. Cancer needs to be treated as early as possible. Delaying the treatment will intensify the problem complexity. If someone is willing to pay a huge some for treatment, why don’t they pay the amount out right so that treatment is undertaken and patient is cured? What is the logic in asking people to forward a mail, then employing someone to count who forwarded how many mails to whom, then give money proportionately? Why so much time and effort is lost in this exercise without any benefit to anyone?
2. Till how many days after triggering of such mail they keep counting? Why isn’t a last date in such mails? What if the patient dies in the mean time?
3. Why is that we never get a mail “Thanks for forwarding, Stop forwarding now, so and so paid so much because of your forwards”?
4. What if the number of forwards exceeds the amount needed for treatment? Will AOL give full amount or only the amount needed for treatment?
5. Why such claims are not officially mentioned in sponsors’ websites/confirmed by company authorities?
6. Why don’t those who send such mails give exact details like: name of hospital, doctor etc, so that we can cross check the genuineness of the situation?

Case II
“Nokia is giving away free phones to beat competition from Sony Ericsson which’s doing the same. If you forward this mail to so many people you’ll get a free Nokia XXXX(Model Number). Mark a copy to to ensure that your contribution is noted”

Case III
“Bill Gate is sharing his fortune. Every time you forward this mail you’ll get $ XX. The money will be credited to your bank account by month end.”

For those who believe and promoted above mail:
Any answers for following questions?

1. Have you ever thought of the amount of money Nokia will have to spend if it has to give free phones to lakhs of people? Considering the potential of internet, if 1,000,000 people become eligible for free phone and each phone cost average Rs 5000, the money Nokia will have to loose excess of Rs 5,000,000,000, that’s Rs. 5 Billion. Does it make sense for any company to loose 5 billion to promote the brand?
2. Any offer which is official comes with a set of terms and condition, called fine print. Why there’s not a single condition imposed on this offer? (not even the last date)
3. Why the offer is not endorsed by Nokia/Microsoft Website/dealer/officials?
4. Finally, how many of you have received free phone/money in your account?

Case IV
“Send this mail to five of your friends and ask them to do the same, and you’ll get a free laptop (Or some other gift)”

90% of above type mails make no sense. Even after you comply with what they asked you to do, you may not get what they promised. This may be due to following
1. Some are outright frauds. They won’t respond at all.
2. Some hidden cost will come to picture: Like you’ve to pay $ 10 (or any amount) towards shipping to collect your gift. (Usually shipping cost exceeds product cost)
3. Their service is available in say US only.

Case V

“Send this mail to so many people in next 10 minutes-your wish will come true/you’ll meet your true love/your life will improve drastically. If you don’t forward so and so bad things will happen”

Mails of above nature are generally forwarded because the contents are interesting to see/read. Just that people don’t bother to remove above stated line. So no big complains on mails of that type. But I pity those (if any) who believe that line.

Case VI
“Because of sudden rush orkut is deleting profiles. Those who don’t receive this scrap in next 24 hours will loose their profile. Please scrap this to all your friends”

Some idiot triggered this and people believe it! Nobody bothered to think-Why should orkut delete user profiles? With google’s backing, which’s giving nearly 3GB disk space per email ID does it make sense to believe that orkut is not able to support its existing users? With orkut FAQ section (which nobody bothered to visit) clearly stating that this rumor is baseless, people still are unwilling to use their brain or sense and forward the mails as above. Is this not stupidity if not superstition?

Why people trigger such forwards?
1. For fun. To few people it’s a way of expressing their creativity. Come out with a creative idea, add some convincing logic to it, and trigger a mail. Sit back and enjoy as your idea travels across the globe.
2. To spread virus/spy ware/ad ware
3. To collect email IDs so that it can be used for marketing purposes.
4. Genuine reason. Probably the statement is genuine, people like me suspected everything unnecessarily.

It’s surprising that even the most educated ones fall pray to these mails and blindly forward them. They don’t bother to spare a minute to check and authenticate the content and source. They simply forward due to following reasons:

1. They’ve free time (probably company provided internet as well) and no work
2. They think they’ve nothing to loose (If I get it great, else I loose nothing)
3. Because the mail came from their friend they assume the contents are genuine and blindly forward.
4. They fall pray to catchy words/temptations in the mail.
5. They think they’ll help someone/themselves by forwarding

By forwarding these mails, the main risk is that we expose email Ids of our friends and relatives to third party. Over a period of time this increases junk mails in our inbox.

For those who are busy at work, this kind of mail eat their time, productivity and often irritate people.

May be I’m saying too much or making an issue out of nothing. Because of in build journalist in me, I have a tendency to cross check everything with material fact and logical analysis, before subscribing to it, as a result of which I usually end up suspecting genuine things and people when there’s no need to.

There’re many genuine and legitimate cases also. Most of the mails like

“ A +ve blood required-contact 988xx xxxxx”, or mails asking to sign a petition (on say reservation issue) etc are generally genuine and its worth supporting such cause. Some companies do give a few rupees to charity when you buy their product (They’re only giving a part of their profit and that makes sense)

In my opinion, it would be better if we keep in mind following things in mind while forwarding:

1. what you think interesting/funny/useful may not be so for others.
2. Please spend a minute analyzing the matter you’re forwarding. IF you promote baseless contents, you loose your credibility.
3. Don’t assume that everyone you know and have given you their email ID are willing to receive your forwards. Some may wish to use different ID for different purposes (like personal mails, official mails, forwards etc) or some may have serious reservations about exposing their email ID to others (as it affects privacy) while some people just do not wish to receive certain type of mails. If you’re not sure about the preferences of other people, ask them. Don’t blindly forwards every mail you get. It generally irritates people.
4. When you forward, retain only main content. Remove unnecessary stuffs like other email IDs, logos, disclaimers etc. No one wants to scroll down till the end of mail to see what it is.
5. Keep a descriptive subject: instead of saying “very good-must see” say “nice video on XYZ-2MB”. Reader should be able to prioritize the mails based on subject lines.
6. Avoid insisting that “You should forward it to so many people”. Just give the matter and let recipient decide what he wants to do with that.

Just like Bangalore traffic, internet is also getting crowded. A more sensible use will make it more comfortable for all of us.

Ending my post with a nice forward:
The last line is the best...
-------A Mail from a frustrated victim of chain mails:--------------

I wanted to thank all my friends and family who have forwarded chain letters to me in 2003 & 2004 & 2005 & 2006. Because of your kindness:
* I stopped drinking Coca Cola after I found out that it's good for removing toilet stains.
* I stopped going to the movies for fear of sitting on a needle infected with AIDS.
* I smell like a wet dog since I stopped using deodorants because they cause cancer.
* I don't leave my car in the parking lot or any other place and sometimes. I even have to walk about 7 blocks for fear that someone will drug me with a perfume sample and try to rob me.
* I also stopped answering the phone for fear that they may ask me to dial a stupid number and then I get a phone bill from with calls to Uganda, Singapore and Tokyo.
* I also stopped drinking anything out of a can for fear that I will get sick from the rat feces and urine.
* When I go to parties, I don't look at any girl, no matter how hot she is, for fear that she will take me to a hotel, drug me then take my kidneys and leave me taking a nap in a bathtub full of ice.
* I also donated all my savings to the Amy Bruce account. A sick girl that was about to die in the hospital about 7,000 times. (Poor girl! she's been 7 since 1993...)!
* I went bankrupt from bounced checks that I made expecting the $15,000 that Microsoft and AOL were supposed to send me when I participated in their special e-mail program would arrive soon.
* My free Nokia phone never arrived and neither did the free passes for a paid vacation to Disneyland.
* Still open to help some from Bulgaria who wants to use my account to transfer his uncle's property of some hundred millions$.
* Made some Hundred wishes before forwarding those Ganesh Vandana, Tirupathi Balaji pics etc ... now most of those 'Wishes' are already married (to someone else)

I’m not saying we should not help others or have some fun/good time forwarding. But beyond a limit, couples of things just look stupid. Let me know what you think about all these.

Wanted to finish this post in an hour or two but it's already taken one fourth of my weekend. Catch you later.

Some more info on hoax claims can be found here.

Thanks for reading. If you've liked the above post, you might like following similar posts as well which try to explore people's mentalities:Check them out:
Patna Man wins Aish's Skirt (celebrity auctioning superstitions)
SMS and Win craze...


Raveesh Kumar said...

Hi Nidhi,

Good Post. Informative. Nowadays we get bogged with so many junk mails. All these have been mentioned.
But somehow I felt the post was somewhat lengthy to read.
Anyway keep blogging


Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hi raveesh,

You're probably right. I need to keep my posts short and sweet. Will keep that in mind for next post onwards...

Rohan Sabharwal said...

this is something i posted on my orkut profile after being flooded with forwards regarding orkut deleting profiles. it had the desired effect:)


I’ll tell you what really annoys me. What really annoys me is an idiot who doesn’t know he’s an idiot. Actually being an idiot is reason enough for me to hate you. I have 48 people on my friend-list who are complete morons! Yes you know who you are and no I’m not going to tell anyone who you are.

So I wake up this morning only to find 48 messages clogging my inbox and pushing my important emails back. They all had the following subject “Beware of being thrown out of Orkut”. Now I have taken time out to explain to you imbeciles how you can help your friends by NOT WASTING THEIR TIME!

1) ‘Dear user because of
sudden rush of people signing upto orkut is come to an attention
that we
are vastly running our of resources so with in a week any one who
does not receive this scrap will be deleted of our server.’

Notice the English. I’m going to ignore the lower-case U in user. But you can’t overlook the crappy diamond comics-esque “…people signing upto(?) orkut is come to an attention…” Now this could only be the work of a person from a certain community in India. And I can also pin-point the college this person graduated from. Now of course he could really be working for Orkut, so at this stage let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and move on.

2) ‘…We know
that you are still using this account We want to find out which
are actually using their orkut accounts so if you are using your
then please send this scrap to every orkut user that you can if u do
not pass this scrap to anyone then we will delete your account…’

I mean come on… come on! If you’re still not convinced after this one, I’m quite sure you’re the person who still opens attachments from unknown senders who don’t specify what those attachments contain.

‘ We know….. we want to find out…’ My god if they know why do they want to find out? And if they really need to find out whether I’m really using this account, why don’t they just check when the last message was sent or received or when was the last time I scrapped someone! Now if the reason they can’t do that is because of the privacy issue then how the fuck are they going to be able to trace this one!! And don’t tell me they have a word-tracker that is designed only to track down messages sent with the exact content as that ‘warning’ message because it’s stupid.

3) “Just
follow these simple steps. 1. Click on the "Messages Tab" in your
account. 2. Click on the "compose mail" option which is the last one
the four icons you see together. 3. Select "all friends" 4. Cut and
Paste this mail.”

And that’s exactly what you did, and completely pissed me off on such an awesome day! Why the fuck would you have to select “all friends”? Why isn’t there a name? Why hasn’t Orkut contacted people individually? It is possible for them to send emails to all their members at once like hotmail does. Even shitty small websites send out e-newsletters to thousands of subscribers at once.

But all this is beside the point. I’ve received this email before, and I haven’t forwarded it to anyone. I didn’t get deleted in a week. Boy, I’m lucky aren’t I!
Remember all those forwards supposedly from ‘Yahoo’ threatening to delete your email account if you didn’t forward their mail to 20 people? Did u notice the name “Joe Smith”? Did you notice how Joe’s position was “Yahoo Manager”? Did you notice that Joe didn’t even get an authentic Yahoo logo to add to his outgoing ‘official’ emails…which even my 5 yr old nephew can ‘right-click and save’ from their hompage? Instead Joe had to make his own e-letter-head using Ariel 36 point in bright ‘whorish’ red.

Now if you don’t have the time to read emails you receive, please don’t waste my time.

Also, please note: Yet again, I’ve noticed a majority of you think you are Clever/Quickwitted.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hi Rohal,

Thanks for sharing that...

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Comments I got for this post at Mouthshut:

Ipshonlu said:
Jun 22, 2007 02:08 AM

Hi Srinidhi
That was a very detailed review. Agree with you that Spam mail has become one of the irritating elements of life, these days and thank goodness we have the junk folder. I usually mark them junk. Good one.

rohitthebest said:
Jun 22, 2007 02:15 AM

True in all its senses.
All these types of mails go to my junk mail forward straight and from there they go to ’’Shift Delete’’.

Keep Writing
gopionline said:
Jun 22, 2007 10:06 AM

I simply delete such mails, sometimes I also send across ABUSES to the sender and inform him not to send such mails again......
enidhi said:
Jun 22, 2007 10:07 AM

Thanks Ipshonlu and rohit,
All these what I mentioned are human generated, which we can verymuch avoid contributing to, with little awareness...
Editenidhi said:
Jun 22, 2007 10:09 AM

Unlike other computer generated spams, these are sent by our own friends and relatives, whom we can’t mark as spam outright as they also send legitimate mails.

Telling them not to send such mails (atleast to me) helps...
hakoonamatata said:
Jun 22, 2007 04:15 PM

Those who start the chain reaction of a spam mailer, are never idiots. On the contary I feel they are wasted talent - someone who had brains but without the will to do something good for anyone, even themselves.

Most of those who forward such mails are the real idiots, wasting their time (if it is any worth) and the reciepients’ time deleting it. We have lots of well educated people in our country, but most of us do not use common sense at such junctures, hence the result.
pooja_negi27 said:
Jun 23, 2007 04:59 AM

Its really very informative, useful and well written review.
Best wishes.
enidhi said:
Jun 23, 2007 08:26 AM

@hakoon..I agree with you.
@pooja- thanks for those words .
shriramsrinivasa said:
Jul 15, 2007 07:22 PM

Its an excellent review. Infact upon receiving such forwarded mails, I make it a point to reply the sender and people being cc’ed on that mail to explain that its a spam mail. Some people think whatever they read on the internet is true!!!! and they forward to others...
enidhi said:
Jul 15, 2007 07:28 PM

Thanks for the comment Shriram

Commonsense is not so common right???

Nitin Nigam said...

Hi srinidhi,
We think alike on this issue.
Good going.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Nitin, Yes. I liked your posts on similar issues. Thanks.