Maybe it’s the position of the moon or the condition of Presidential and Local Politics. Maybe it’s the polarized distribution of wealth and resources or the clarifying of social hierarchies we have known were there but often pretended were not. Maybe it’s something in the air or in the water. Maybe it’s because I write these blogs and am known to have wide range of interests and friends.
Whatever the cause, I am lately the recipient of a growing number of email Forwards and Forward to All.
And I’m not very happy about it.
This week alone I have received:
1. A scathing, one-sided article about Secretary Clinton with a note at the top from the forwarder saying only “Isn’t it awful what we’ve come to?” I happen to know from experience that the sender’s primary approach to life is Ain’t It Awful?. It’s as if he had studied under Eric Berne and practices doing everything Berne suggested not to do. His standard opening, in-person gambit is usually a recitation of all the things that disappointed him or he didn’t like. Eventually, much later, he gets around to what was OK. Maybe.
2. A link to an article about how much money best-selling authors make. No message from the sender at all. This came from a devoted friend who lives large and has great ambitions for the person and professional he thinks I can and should become. He’s a dear man and I really appreciate his loyalty if not his clinging to hopes for me that I don’t share. For my part, as someone whose wings have often been lamed by hope, I’ve long since discovered the corollary to hope isn’t hopelessness. It’s faith, intention, and adaptability.
3. An article quoting Christian Clergymen positing how good Mr. Trump is for Christianity overall and for the American churches specifically because he is naming and calling out the very devils the bible warns us against. This came from a friend whose very conservative Christian values and practices I respect because they are so important to him. No note from the sender accompanied the forwarded article. Was the sender hoping to nail down my vote?
4. A supposedly funny photograph of a large bosomed woman accompanied by a tag line. This came from a man now in his 70s, who unbeknownst to me must still belong in his heart to his 7th Grade “Hubba Hubba Did You See Those?” Club – that club of clueless and pimply adolescent boys who spend a lot of time alone in the bathroom with the door locked. All of the recipients of this forwarding were men. I don’t know whether to be more shocked at the email itself or at the realization of how little the sender knows me. I do know I don’t want to belong to that group of recipients.
5. A link to a deck of photographs, embedded in an email from a friend. The color and black and white images were of interesting, relatively un-photographed but historic places around the globe. Each image had a short title explaining what it was. At the top of the email was a note saying “I thought of you and your love of both photography and world travel when I saw these. They pleased me and I hope they will please you also.”
I’m sure I’m not the only one receiving a barrage of forwards. And I don’t want my friends and colleagues to stop forwarding emails and information that is of real value. What I want – and firmly request – are these four things:
1. Always put a note at the top of your forward explaining what you found of value in the content, why you think it should be important to me, and how I could use the information.
2. Take thoughtful, personal responsibility for the quality and impact of what you are putting out into the internet.
3. Consider what you are attempting to contribute to the receiver (whether it’s me or anyone else) and whether or not the receiver is likely to somehow benefit from receiving the material.
4. Before you hit Send or Forward make a clear distinction between information that could improve the conversation and understanding versus information that fans the flames from a single perspective and in doing so exacerbates the muddiness all around us.
What are you receiving you wish you hadn’t and what are you doing about it?
What are you not receiving you wish you could and what are you doing about it?
For more on what sparked my interest with this topic check out: Eric Berne and Games People Play