Monday, August 04, 2008

Why Does this Keep Happening to Me??

Well, it's happened again. I knew it was just a matter of time. But still...

Once again a well-meaning but oh-so-gullible friend has forwarded to me (and about 100,000 other people, giving me about six inches' worth of addresses to scroll past before I get to the meat of the message...which contains not only the hideous and distracting " > " in front of every line but also " > " in front of each line as well, making it especially fun to read) a completely sincere "warning" about something that I know darn well is a hoax.

In this case, it's the classic old VERY IMPORTANT - BIG VIRUS COMING - Disquised as a Hallmark Card. I assume a "disquise" must be a portmanteau, perhaps for "disquieting disguise." Not sure. More research needed.

Since I have been "warned" about this BIG VIRUS more than once over the years I no longer need to go to the Urban Legends Reference Pages to look it up. If you want to, you can do so here.

At this point you're wondering what the problem is. After all, I know it's a hoax; I can simply ignore it, no? Well, sure, I could. Except I always feel, in these instances, a responsibility to allay people's fears. The BIG VIRUS COMING is supposed to burn "the whole hard disc C of your computer" if you open the "POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK" attachment that purports to accompany it. (The annoying thing, which the Urban Legends Reference Pages explains, is that there really is a "postcard" virus out there, but it isn't new, and it won't burn holes in anything. But the BIG VIRUS COMING warning is a hoax about something that is real, though less scary than the hoax portrays.) So I have a mental picture of these other 99,000 people to whom my friend forwarded the warning--which of course includes the exhortation to further forward it to everybody they know--living in constant fear of receiving the dreaded POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK that will burn a hole through their C drive and on down to the earth's core.

And so it is more than likely that I will compose a reply that tries very hard to avoid making my friend feel foolish while at the same time setting her straight and encouraging her to be less gullible in the future. (It's the "gullible" and "not feeling foolish" tension that makes such replies tricky.)

Not that it will do much good, probably. Some time back, an acquaintance was in the habit of forwarding every single hoax or gag that went around--viruses, dying kids, exploding gasoline pumps, unlocking your car with your cell phone, you name it. And every time I would kindly explain that this was something else to add to the don't-worry list, or something else that didn't work, or something else that wouldn't happen. And she would thank me...and, two days later, send out the next hoax or e-mail urban legend. One day, however, I noticed that it had been some time since I had heard from her. I would have liked to think I had wised her up, but I checked with a mutual acquaintance and got the information I knew I would.

She had simply dropped me from her mailing list.

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