Monday 26 Sep 2016

Inbox
Jennifer Flaten

Bing! You've got mail. I bet you anything it is another offer from a Nigerian Prince, you know the guy, he wants to split his loot with you, his most trusted friend, even though you have never met. So, are you going to fall for it?

Okay, maybe you are too savvy to fall for a scheme like that, but I bet you fall for a lot of hoaxes that pop into your email, especially now that we are deep into election season.

Hoaxes aren't all urban legends and chain mail; some of them can come disguised as actual news articles or websites.

Do you remember your parents admonishing you "don't believe everything you hear"?

If you are like me, you most likely heard this caveat after you breathlessly repeated some scintillating piece of gossip whispered to you in the lunchroom or that you over heard in the bathroom, still it is good advice.

Unfortunately, it seems you may need a refresher course in this little tenet. The reason you need a little schooling? Very simply put, you are a sucker, one who falls for everything you read in your inbox and online.

Especially things you read online. Online has become the equivalent of the bathroom stall. Just about, anybody can write anything in a blog or other social networking site, and instantly millions of people will read it and believe it.

What is worse, they pass this specious information onto other suckers, and so on and so forth.

Even respected newspapers and magazines occasionally print unvetted stories, but nothing compares to the wild accusations and stories that float around in cyberspace.

It is disappointing that by now our culture isn't more media savvy. You would think that all people would understand that if something appears on a blog or web page doesn't automatically make it true.

Published doesn't guarantee truthfulness; it can still be gossip, published gossip, but gossip nonetheless.

All right, maybe I can cut you a little slack about believing (initially, with skepticism) something you see on a blog or website. I mean even several well-respected news sites have fallen for hoaxes that have appeared on blogs and repeated them as truth in recent history.

In terms of the inbox, I will cut you no slack if you believe every email that hits your account. It doesn't matter if the email is from a Nigerian Price asking you to help him get $1mill out safely or if it is a forward from your Uncle Joe, telling you Barack Obama is secretly, an alien set out to conquer earth.

You must view each of these emails with the same amount of suspicion.

I don't care if you think Uncle Joe would never steer you wrong. He has! Please for the love of god; stop taking these things as the gospel. If you want to read them and then use your critical thinking skills to research whether these items hold any grain of truth, that is a different story.

Just do not forward it to someone else, or run around quoting the email.

This applies to every email you get, all those urban legend emails about hooked handed men praying on women in the parking lots, exploding microwaves whatever. Stop; just stop hitting the forward button.

While we are on the subject, stop believing every nut with a blog too, while you are at it. Sure, I know a couple paragraphs I told you that sometimes blogs contain good info...sometimes. Most of the time, it is some nut that is more then happy to rant and rave his personal opinion guised as researched information.

A perfect example is the Sarah Palin flap about book banning. The email that is being forward with her list of banned books contains several books published after she was Mayor of Wasilla. Call me crazy but this is a sure sign that it is inflammatory.

I know it is hard to disregard those little electronic missives, but you can do it I know you can. Now forward this article to 50 of your closest friends and I guarantee that you will receive money sometime in the near future.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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