By Cheryl Chase
I am sure you’ve all seen them once or twice – you know, the emails that state certain events need to be brought to your immediate attention and urgently forwarded to all your friends and acquaintances – to warn them of some impending, dangerous or uncivilized occurrence that is going to shatter their worlds forever. Some people react in an outrageous, indignant manner and quickly forward this on to all their BFFs on their contact list (first rule – fact check). The news spreads like wildfire. Don’t you wish good news traveled that quickly?
I recently received such an email forwarded to me from my mother, a novice to the Internet/computer world. She had forwarded this message to everyone on her list – forward, add an address, forward, add an address, forward, and add an address… I must be near the bottom of the BFF list because by the time I received the message, it had about 20 other email addresses at the top and I had to scroll down for pages to get to the message that was so important for me to read.
That already had me laughing by the time I got to this: Sources close to the President stated, “President Obama had directed the issuance of a U.S. postage stamp commemorating Islamic holidays...” To make matters worse, the post office was “forcing” this stamp on all of us and something needed to be done immediately – a boycott on the use of the stamp was suggested so the profits would not go the Muslim community. Wow! That’s pretty outrageous! I quickly composed myself and sought out the Internet to do some fact-checking before forwarding on to all my BFFs.
My first choice was snopes.com, "The definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.” There, I discovered the truth and fiction within the email message from my mother.
Apparently, this story has been circulating the Internet since 2009. The stamp that was featured prominently in the scary email is indeed an authentic stamp – the Eid stamp which is in celebration of two important Eids or festivals on the Islamic calendar. The stamp was revealed to the world in 2001, well before Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. The stamp was considered a specialty item and only sold if someone specifically requested it. Only the USPS profited from the sale of the stamps.
I responded to my mother with the link to snopes.com so she could personally check it out. I avoided embarrassing her further by choosing not to send it on to the 20 some-odd BFFs included in the email. I’m sure the message is well on its way a second or third time around the Internet within the past few minutes, but I’ve done my small part.
I say all that to ask this: What compels people to forward these messages? Don’t you wish your message to the world was just as easily forwarded with such urgency? I’m searching for the formula now…