Chain Emails: How to be a Smart and Responsible Internet User

Chain emails are the internet’s electric form of gossip.  At best, they are good for a quick laugh.  At worst, they can spread rumors, infect your computer and even spread viruses to your friends. This article offers some guidelines that can be helpful to follow.

I’m not a tech expert, so I’m sure that there are other things worth mentioning but, at the very least, it’s a start.  Personally, I don’t even read most of these types of emails anymore because I often find that they are steeped in biased, negative thinking and affect my mood. The positive power of the internet (e.g., being a tool for learning, giving voice to the individual, getting information about, and to, people in need) is also it’s greatest downside because there are people who, some purposefully and other’s inadvertently, spread misinformation, lies, and risk of computer viruses.  There will always be negativity in the world, that is something that I can’t control.  What I have learned to control for me is the amount of time I spend wallowing in it and passing it on to others.  So, with that in mind, I offer the following:

  • Don’t believe anything you read in an e-mail that’s being passed around.  E-mails are quickly distanced from their original author so it’s easy to lie, trick, and mislead with them and the author will never face the consequences of being “caught.”
  • Verify the information sent to you for yourself before you consider passing it on to your own friends and family.  Failing to do this basically means that you are very likely to be the next link in a chain of gossip, rumor, or blatant lies.  Information can generally be verified by searching on the following sites (depending on what you’re trying to verify):
    •  – The “Myth Busters” of the internet.
    •  – When used with a little caution, can often lead you in the right direction.  Make sure that there are validated citations for the sentences you are reading.
    • – Look for reputable news sources that you recognize.
  • Also bear in mind that a lot of these heavily passed on e-mails contain some truth and some fiction.  The truth is generally added to give the appearance that all of the information is legitimate.  Don’t be tricked!
  • It is always better to pass information you think is important to others by simply providing the link to where they can view the unchanged, original information.  When people pass around information in text, anyone can add or take out stuff at their whim, making the information at best incomplete and at worst completely incorrect.
  • Don’t blindly click on any link you see in an e-mail.  It is very easy to have the text of the link be different from where the link actually takes you.  Put your mouse over the hyperlink in the text and the actual link will show up above the mouse pointer.  Only click on it if you are going to a reputable website that you are familiar with.  Going to unfamiliar website by disreputable people/companies can result in your computer getting infected.
  • You can protect your friends’ privacy when you pass on e-mails like this to your friends by sending it to yourself (optional, can be left blank) and then putting all of your friends’ e-mail addresses in the “BCC:” section.  This way, everyone’s e-mail addresses are invisible to the other people you are sending the e-mail out to.