Pet Peeve: People Who Forward Email Urban Legends

March 18, 2008 at 11:56 pm | Posted in Rants | 4 Comments

We all have pet peeves. Those little things that set us off way more than they should. I’m human too and there are certain things that can “push my buttons” and irritate me way beyond a reasonable or rational reaction. I was reminded of one of my pet peeves again recently- People who forward email urban legends.

I kind of think of the email urban legends as the adult version of a chain letter. The chain letters I remember from when I was younger would promise good luck/fortune/finding your true love/etc. as long you mailed the copy to X number of individuals within a certain time frame (usually 24 hours). Don’t mail the letter to the right number of friends, or just don’t do it fast enough, and some horrible calamity will occur. Most adults don’t fall for this. Instead, adults seem to be easy prey for the email urban legends and very quicky morph from being people to being sheeple.

The first email urban legend I remember receiving was actually sent to me by a good friend who shall remain nameless (to spare her from shame and embarrassment). Most of you have probably heard of Febreeze? It’s good at getting smelly odors out of fabrics you can’t wash. It would even clear out enough of the cigar smell from my Dad’s car for me to be able to ride in it. Anyway, my family and I are mostly dog people. The SIL is a veterinarian and has a much broader range of animal interests (including cats), but the rest of us stick to dogs. Big dogs especially. Any of you who have lived with big dogs know that sometimes their beds and favorite furniture can become “fragrant”. Particularly during a Texas summer when daily bathing just isn’t feasible for a 70 lb dog. Naturally, many of my family members considered Febreeze to be akin to magic and used it often to get rid of the Eau de canine. My friend received an email about Febreeze being toxic for animals and quickly forwarded it to me and every other person she knew who might use it and have pets. Of course, I quickly emailed my SIL (the Army had her stationed so many time zones away that calling wasn’t an easy option). Before she had a chance to reply, I mentioned the email to someone from work who suggested that we check the email out on snopes.com.

Snopes.com is great. All you have to do is go to the site, enter in search terms and it brings up the potential matches. Each post will have examples of the emails that are circulating reporting on the urban legend in question along with a “Status” determination (e.g. True or False) and often a good bit of explanatory information. I guess I should tell all the Febreeze users reading this not to worry- it was a total urban legend. In fact, the ASPCA has approved Febreeze for use around dogs and cats. You can check out the entry on it at Snopes for more information.

So, back to my recent reminders of this particular pet peeve. In the past 24 hours I have had to go to Snopes to debunk two different urban legends emailed to me by sheeple. Actually, sheeple is probably a bit too harsh to describe my neighbor. She forwarded on the email warning to not flash my headlights at oncoming cars with their headlights turned off because she likes me and doesn’t want me to be killed in an initiation rite for a wannabee “Bloods” gangbanger. Like my friend ABW, she sometimes worries about me coming back from the city at night alone, etc., and does like to give personal safety pointers. This particular email is listed as false at snopes.com.

My co-worker, on the other hand, definitely meets criteria to be called a sheeple rather than a people.  I should point out that this is based on a long history of events and not just one isolated incident. Yesterday she forwarded an email about medications containing phenylpropanolamine being pulled from the market because of causing strokes. The email had a long list of medications, including Alka Seltzer, and sounded pretty dire. I was a bit surprised that I hadn’t heard anything about the recall because I have been paying particular attention to news about medications and recalls lately. So, I went to snopes to check it out. This particular email was interesting. As it turns out, this is an urban legend that was true at one point in time but is now outdated. Most manufacturers removed this ingredient from their medications back in 2000 and the FDA recommended in 2005 that it be categorized as not safe or effective. You probably can’t buy a medication containing this ingredient anymore. I hit reply all and sent a message to her (and everyone else at work she had sent the message to) with the snopes page. The co-worker retrieved her Alka-Seltzer from the trash and went looking for another emergency to cause her next ulcer.

I have a very simple request to make of those of you who have actually read this far. The next time you receive an email warning you about something, please check it out at snopes.com before you pass it on to anyone. If snopes says it is true, consider adding a link verifying the accuracy of the message when you send it to your address book. If snopes says it is false or outdated, please reply back to the person who sent it to you and set them straight. Most importantly though….don’t send it to me. I’m a cranky ABWF these days and you just don’t want to read the kind of reply the next person who sends me one is going to get.

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4 Comments »

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  1. Yes I found you from a mutual sailing friend.

    I REGULARLY send out Snopes links! I love that sight.

  2. whoops. wrong kind of “site”. Remember folks Typing and talking don’t mix.

  3. HI Krista! It’s nice to hear from you- sorry it has taken me so long to respond. Our mutual sailing friend has spoken of you and your family. I’m glad you are dropping in here.

  4. HAHAHA looks like krista and ABWF are so friends they could date!


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