Monday, February 7, 2011

The boy who cried wolf – 21st century version

I am sure that you remtories as a child and imagining yourself as the characters in them. Well, you should take note that you are very likely a character in story that is unfolding right now! This is because “Forward First, Think Later” culture of today’s internet users is going to land us right into the age old story of the shepherd boy who used to shout out “wolf” just to see other villagers come running hastily for no reason. In case you do not remember, the villagers who wisened up to his tactics soon stopped trying to help him when he shouted. Finally, on the day that a wolf really attacked his herd, nobody came to help him and all his sheep (and in gorier versions, the shepherd too) was slaughtered by the wolf.

Forward First, Think Later”
The number of email hoaxes and chain mails is incredibly large but more shocking is how successfully they circulate despite the fact that many of them are blatantly fake. This success can be attributed to the attitude of the people who do not even bother to take five seconds to verify what they are forwarding. Amongst such ridiculous chain mails was a one urging people to forward to their friends an email warning about the dangers of “dihydrogen monoxide” which if you take a second to think about is just water! Equally ridiculous are the emails that claim hotmail/gmail/yahoo/facebook will close inactive accounts due to their financial difficulties if an email is not forwarded. Ironically, I once received such a message on facebook while I was reading a story about Facebook’s expansion plans and investment bank GoldmanSachs’ investments in Facebook.

The ‘WOLF!’ effect”
More worrying than the chain mails is the attitude shift that they lead to. Most if not all of such chain mails have subject lines with words like -‘warning’, ‘important’, ‘do not ignore’, ‘read at once’, ‘urgent help required’. As most of such emails turn out to be hoaxes or chain mails, I tend to read mails with such subject lines last and that too only if I have time. To complicate the matter further many of my close friends and relatives i.e. the people I love and value a lot, have over the years sent or still send me several such chain mails. What I fear the most is that I might ignore an email from a friend who is genuinely in trouble and needs help because of the tendency to automatically ignore such emails which appeal for blood/money required in far away countries. This could happen to anyone and has become more likely these days with many people having friends all over the world who use email and facebook as their primary medium of communication. In short, sending a chain mail reduces the importance of your emails in the eyes of the one who receives.

What should you do?
I urge everyone who reads this to verify before sending any forward and if a chain mail is fake (as most of them are), to send a reply to the sender enlightening him about the false claims that he is endorsing and also about the danger of others ignoring his emails in his time of need. Verifying the details of any email is very easy thanks to our good friends Google and Wikipedia.

Here are some of the things commonly claimed in chain mails spam emails and how to verify them.

1. Email / Social Networking companies are deleting accounts
– If they actually start deleting accounts of those who do no forward chain mails, it will make headlines all around the world. Anyway, you can verify by reading this, this, and this

2. Kurkure (indian snack) has plastic in it
- Read this

3.Nigerian millionare needs postage money to send you lots of cash
- Read this

I hope you give this some serious thought and kindly refrain from sending me hoax emails and chain emails.   :)


  1. IIRC, chain email is used by spammers to collect email addresses

  2. add to the list the mails which have some message/ picture of God and threaten you to forward or something bad will happen to you. i have couple of friends who do not send chain mails in general but send these...

  3. Oh ya! I absolutely despise and hate those God photo chain mails too! Such crap! Any God so self obsessed as to bear a grudge against people for refusing to forward his/her picture to X number of others is not worthy of being worshipped at all...

    Anyway, if there are some who do not forward other chain mails but do forward these, it just shows how religion can get normal people to suspend rational thinking. No wonder religious fundamentalists have no trouble recruiting....

  4. oh my god...that DHMO article is insane! such unemployed people in the world...that article is loooong and entirely fictional and useless. i am amazed by the effort people will put into a hoax


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