Hard to believe, but the very first electronic messages were around 50 years ago. It wasn't the sophisticated, snail mail-replacing juggernaut most of us use every day, but it existed. As it has grown, communication has shifted and things none of us ever dreamed were necessary -- emoticons, for example -- became not only functional but necessary.
Unfortunately, humans fall prey to some dumb practices when it comes to any kind of electronic interaction. Celebrities still take naked photos of themselves with their phones, never dreaming they will be hacked. People look at porn at work and can't imagine being caught. When it comes to people and technology, stupid things just happen sometimes.
With that in mind, I rounded up six dumb and/or annoying things people do with e-mail. See how many you've done!
6. Send unsolicited political/religious/motivational/warning messages. This usually comes from an older relative and it could be anything from pictures of nature scenes with inspirational sayings etched on them to warnings that Swiffer kills dogs. In some weird twist of consequence, many of those who used to send these as e-mails have now begun posting them on Facebook. We can't escape. My general tendency when getting a stern lecture about Obama being Muslim from an old, conservative uncle or a warning that Coca-Cola is harsher than battery acid from a concerned cousin is to ignore it...or send them a link to Snopes.
5. Use one e-mail for everything. I'm still surprised when I find out a friend has one e-mail address he literally uses for everything: business, personal, purchases, newsletters. Gmail is completely free and there are other free or cheap e-mail options out there. Mail clients on computers and phones allow users to check multiple addresses simultaneously. By having separate addresses, you avoid getting ridiculous spam sent to a single address, particularly from that place where you bought "herbal supplements" last fall.
4. Add attachments to signatures. I try everything in my power to convince people not to put attachments like company logos in the signatures of their e-mails, particularly in the signatures that are automatically tagged onto the end of every message sent. Nothing is as annoying as having to read through an e-mail thread that has 20 attached logos in it, plus it wastes my hard-drive space. Nice-looking signatures that simply display logos that are sitting on a Web server are much more appropriate. And while I'm on the topic, please get rid of the animated emoticons and inspirational messages in your signature. This isn't 1998. 3. Actually read/believe/click on spam. Do you know why billions of spam messages are sent every month? It's because they work. There are people out there who are either not informed that the prince of that African country who wants to turn your thousand bucks into two million doesn't exist, or are so convinced that they are getting a better deal on antidepressants through some shady online retailer, that they click on a link and the cycle continues. The best way to stop spam is to not fall for it.
2. Use CC and BCC improperly. When sending an e-mail to a group of people, consider who is on the list. For example, if you have a friend who happens to be rather famous, best to put his personal Gmail address in the BCC line to keep it hidden from others. If your crazy buddy from college who now lives on a compound in Idaho and is convinced the government is watching everything gets an e-mail from you and his address is visible to everyone on your friend's list including that guy you know at the ATF, you might cause another Ruby Ridge. Learn when to use CC and when to use BCC. It's important.
1. Use Reply All without thinking. Okay, many of us have accidentally clicked the Reply All button and sent something embarrassing to co-workers, friends or family members. It happens, which is why when you do choose to hit Reply All, you should do so with great caution. However, Reply All is NOT appropriate when someone sent out a birthday party invite. If it's a group of relatively close friends, fine. But, if there are 100 people on that invite, they don't all need to see your 50-message, four-hour back-and-forth with your old roommate.
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