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Is Someone You Love a Serial Forwarder? Get the Support You Need

12/02/2013 05:25 EST | Updated 02/01/2014 05:59 EST

Bleary-eyed, with coffee in hand, I open my email. My heart pounds a bit in anticipation, and yes, there it is, my first FWD: of the day.

Do you have a serial forwarder in your life? You know those little old ladies and technical neophytes who think by forwarding you inspirational quotes, chain letters, virus threats, and jokes they are doing you a favour?

There has been a lot in the news lately about the Yahoo mail redesign, much to the chagrin of Yahoo's own employees. Yahoo is not the only email client making 'improvements'. Gmail's recent redesign ties everything in with Google+, which reminds me of the Lord of the Rings, with "One Account to Rule them All."

Also, Outlook (the email client formerly known as Hotmail) removed the 'print' button from the taskbar. Most of these 'improvements' have been cosmetic or changing some back-end component, that may or may not wreak havoc with our systems, but the greatest improvement would actually be the elimination of the forward button.

The forward button is like the penny, or the cigarette lighter in a car. At one time it may have been a good idea, but times change and Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook, need to change for two reasons:

The forward button adds a >to >>every >>>line, >>>>making >>>>>>the >>>>>>>original >>>>>>>>impossible >>>>>>>>>to >>>>>>>>>read.

Most importantly, however, forward is a security risk by broadcasting your personal interests and email address to spammers. The list of active email address snowballs with every forward. The topic of the forwarded email also lets spammers know some demographic information. For example: if the original email is a joke about being old, generally, the list will have a high proportion of retiree's. Not that spammers are very subtle in their marketing strategy, but it probably increases their effectiveness to have a general idea about their victims.

Friends don't forward to friends.

Because of the ease of use of the forward button sending an email to everyone in your contact list is very popular. If this describes you, please stop. You are not being a friend and doing something good. You are corrupting everyone's email accounts by cluttering them up with trash and inviting spammers in to abuse your 'friends'.

If you have been guilty being a serial forwarder, it's not too late, you can become a good friend once again by following these simple steps.

  • Don't use the forward button.
  • Don't use 'reply all'. This button is really for businesses and groups to keep up to date, it's not for sending jokes to friends.
  • Don't send bulk emails in the 'to' area. If you do, everyone, including spammers, can see and use all the email address of your friends. Use instead the BCC (that's Blind Carbon Copy) and the email will still go out to everyone, but nobody can see the others on the list. You have to send 'to' someone, so put your own email address in the 'to' and everyone else in BCC.
  • Clean it up. If you must share a joke, picture, poem or something, copy it, clean it up and re-send it. For text: simply highlight it (click and drag the cursor over it to turn it blue), copy it (Ctrl+C) and paste it (Ctrl+V) into notepad. Edit it by taking out the >, removing any email addresses, and also by putting it in notepad you remove any viruses and spam links. For pictures: right click on the picture and save it to your computer. Write a new email and 'attach' the picture.
  • Be a friend. If all this copying and pasting, clicking of buttons and saving, seems too much work, join Twitter or Facebook or some other social media site. There you can 'share', 'retweet', and 'like' at the touch of the button without foisting your internet discoveries on your email friends.

If you have a friend who is a serial forwarder, perhaps they need an intervention.

Step 1: Give this article to your serial forwarder. A printed version works best, but you can also copy and paste this article and send it as an email. If they don't stop go on to Step 2:

  1. Highlight this article (click and drag the cursor over this article to turn it blue)
  2. Copy this article (Ctrl+C).
  3. Go to the offending forwarded email with all those email addresses and press 'Repy All'.
  4. In the Body of the message, Select All (Ctrl+A). Everything should turn blue.
  5. Paste this article (Ctrl+V). This article should appear in the stead of the original.
  6. Press send and everyone who got the offending forward will get a copy of this article. Hopefully this 'peer pressure' approach will discourage the serial forwarder, without losing too many friends.

Until the day email clients finally get rid of the 'forward' button, we as considerate internet citizens, have to maintain the strength and resolve to avoid the forward button, and help others become wise in the ways of the email.

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