Saturday, June 07, 2008

Global Telephone

You know those e-mails that are constantly circulating, warning us not to sniff perfume in parking lots, or to be wary of flyers on rear car windows or even about boycotting gasoline on a certain day, not to mention all the ones about viruses and worms and tricks and stuff?

I was reading the one at the above link just now, and it describes a progression of events that have led to the current situation, with one small thing getting spread and distorted as it's passed along.

It reminds me of that game we played as kids. You remember Telephone, right? You sat in a line or a circle and the first person whispered a sentence or phrase to the next, who passed on what they heard, and so on. The last person says what they heard out loud and makes everyone giggle, because it's garbled and silly by the time it gets to them.

The Internet has improved communication to the point that we are engaging in a continuous game of global telephone. I don't know how most of this stuff starts--someone bored or creative writes something and sends it to friends, maybe, or someone reads something and misinterprets it? Or someone who is uninformed puts out misinformation and others assume it's true because it's in writing (a phenomenon that precedes the Internet by hundreds, if not thousands of years).

What gets me is the laziness factor. Every single of these e-mails I get, I check Snopes to see how valid it is. Those people are exhaustive in how they research and respond to these things, and I'm always fascinated by the truth. Even things that are true usually have a lot more to them, and I learn a lot. And every time, I respond to the person who forwarded the e-mail with the link to Snopes. None of them learn a lesson for next time, however.

Some of these e-mails have, at some point in the forwarding history, a line that says something like "I checked snopes and it's true!" so people believe it and just pass it on without checking themselves. Or, I guess, they know I'll do it for them. *eye roll*

Most of this is innocent inconvenience or nuisance info. But you never know what kind of harm it can cause. What if someone did have a piece of debris stuck to the back of their car and didn't, for whatever reason, notice it until they started to back out. It's far more dangerous for them to continue driving with an obscured view because they remembered the e-mail that told them not to get out of the car than it would be to stop and remove the debris. An unlikely situation? Sure, but maybe more likely than a carjacker choosing your particular car and hanging around for the 45 minutes you're in the store, just waiting for you to come out and follow a script you're not aware of.

Anyway. Long-winded way to say...take a minute to check Snopes before you forward these things, please. (Though the people who keep forwarding me stuff don't read my blog, so I'm probably preaching to the choir--I apologize. :)

1 comment:

Vicky B said...

Which is why I don't forward stuff like that - but thank you for checking! :)