You’ve got mail? You’ve got to be kidding.

Just received a twelfth copy of an email entitled “Fw: Fw: Fw: Re:” from your Uncle Elmer full of pictures of kittens eating cheeseburgers? Tired of reading the same chain letter email from five family members? It’s time to put your foot down.

It’s a sad state of affairs when something like this is necessary, but it is, judging from the email messages I receive regularly from some people.

My new rules for receiving and responding to email messages:

  1. If you send me an email that doesn’t have a Subject, I’m probably not going to read it. Aside from the fact that this is a tactic often used by spammers, if it means so little to you that you can’t add some text to the Subject field, it doesn’t seem as if it would be something worth reading.
  2. If you send me an email that doesn’t include me as a recipient (meaning you have BCCed, or blind carbon-copied, me along with an unknown number of additional people, and I will never know whom or how many), I’m probably not going to read it. If you don’t understand why this is rude, you shouldn’t be using email in the first place. There are legitimate reasons for doing this; preventing the people you’ve emailed from knowing who and how many other people you’ve emailed is not one of them. A good indicator occurs when you send an email to “yourself” and blind-copy everyone else, which does little but promote the mounting theory that you’re an egotistical ignoramus.
  3. If you take an email that you’ve received and forward it on to me, without adding a comment or explaining why you’ve sent it to me or even why it might be interesting, I’m probably not going to read it.
  4. If you “invite” me to an event by sending me an email, and no other attempt is made to contact me about the event (in person, or via phone or post), I’m probably not going to attend nor RSVP.
  5. If you modify an email that someone has forwarded to you (or that many people have forwarded) to appear as if it has been written by you, but upon reading it becomes clear that you’re not the author and forwarded the thing on to me without even reading it (e.g., you’re not currently in a parking lot in Guatemala and aghast to learn that clicking your automobile alarm remote five times unlocks every Chevy within a five-mile radius), then I may end up reading part of your email, but I’ll eventually realize that you haven’t actually written any of it and stop reading.
  6. If you’re thinking of including me in a chain letter and expecting me to “forward it on to your 10 best friends, and we’ll all be rich!”, you may be saddened to know that I won’t be doing anything with your email other than shaking my head as I delete it. Someone should also let you know at this point that you’re not actually going to get rich from this. No, really: it’s true.
  7. If you include my email address in a list of people to send email from some web site that I don’t use, not only am I not going to read it, but I’m not going to be happy that you’ve just provided my email address to some company that is undoubtedly going to spam me with email ads. Thanks a lot.
  8. If you send me a message telling (not asking) me to do something or click some link that is clearly meant to benefit you personally in some way, without the courtesy of saying “please” or “thank you” for doing it, you can probably guess at this point what’s going to happen.
  9. If you break one or more of these guidelines on a consistent basis, your emails to me may end up going straight to the spam-can automatically, without ever being read. If you don’t care about that, then I have to ask: why are you even emailing me at all?

Please comment on and augment these ideas. Perhaps some of them will eventually sink in, though, judging from the lack of response to my comments on the misuse of virtual networking, I’m sorry to say that I doubt it.

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