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Fwd: My Inbox Overfloweth

Seth Bisen-Hersh

Anticipating new mail from your friends all over the country, you log onto Athena. You sit there as the computer opens your account. "Twenty new messages in the last few hours," you excitedly think to yourself. And then you type in those 3 little letters, i-n-c, ready to find out that the new letters are just more junk e-mail.

"Send this to 20 of your best friends in the next hour or you will have bad luck in love," says the first message in your inbox. This, of course, means that if you do not send the message along, then your girlfriend or boyfriend of four years will dump you. Or maybe it means you will never date again. And what if you are just too busy to think of twenty of your best friends and only send it to ten? What happens then? Do you still have bad luck or do you have half bad and half good?

"WARNING!!!!!! If you receive an e-mail titled JOIN THE CREW' DO NOT open it! It will erase EVERYTHING on your hard drive!" Here's another poignant e-mail. This is telling me that by simply opening an e-mail, my entire computer will stop working entirely. I may not have a degree in computer science yet, but I am quite skeptical about the powers of e-mail. I am sure that there are plenty of ways for a virus to infiltrate one's system, but I am not certain that e-mail is one of them.

"For everyone you send this to, the American Cancer Society will donate 3 cents," reads another type of mail forwarded throughout cyberspace. Although the sentiment is quite nice, how do you suppose the American Cancer Society will know how many people get this? Do they have an e-mail tracker attached so that they can keep track of it? Do they take a poll and ask who has gotten it? No and no. Again, this is just another freak's idea of a joke masquerading as a tragic story.

Obviously these chain letters and warnings cannot be taken seriously. However, there are a great number of them floating around cyberspace as I type. Why is this? Are people so insecure in their lives that they'll believe anything that gets sent to their inbox? Or are people just playing it safe?

Well, as my friend once assured me, "The way it is described in the e-mail, the only virus which I think exists is the e-mail itself." So, in other words, these letters serve no point and are concocted by bored people who want to see how many saps there are out there, and we innocent people keep getting them sent to us.

Many of the other forwards I get are humorous in nature. At first it is a nice break from the day, but then as I realize that all of my mail is made up of messages forwarded to me, I start to dislike them. Whatever happened to writing to say hello? There are friends I have not talked to in months, and instead of sending me letters saying how much they miss me, how their lives are going or how the weather in California is, they send countless forwarded e-mails.

Some people have complained about spamming and advertising, but I personally like to know about the various activities going on around campus. Even if I receive mail about a billion events, if just one of them is for something I would like to attend, that justifies the rest. E-mail is one of the best ways to hear about all the activities that one could participate in instead of staying at home on the computer all day and night. This is the one kind of superfluous mail that I never mind getting.

So obviously there is a surplus of junk mail out there. But quite honestly, what is the point of complaining about it? I mean, really, how hard is it to push the delete button or type R-M-M? It seems to me that it takes virtually one second to do this. That is shorter than the time it would take to respond to an unwanted mail. I have witnessed written sparring over whether or not certain e-mails are appropriate for certain mailing lists and I think the arguments are just silly. The responses just add to the clutter in mailboxes that people were grumbling about in the first place. Ideally, people should not send chain letters and the like. Given that this probably won't happen, I strongly endorse the delete button as the perfect solution to this problem.