Why Chain Letters Are So Bad

6 years ago

Why Chain Letters are So Bad

You start your email program, go to your favourite web communities and social networks. There, you are bombarded with messages from strangers, internet newbies and friends alike. You may even get notifications that friends have tagged you on their blog or social network or have posted something to your Facebook wall etc.

Some of these are normally very sensible people, and some friends are people you rarely hear from, so it's exciting to know they were thinking of you and decided to get in touch again, right?

Think again!

Just as happened two months ago, and six months before that, these "friends" who supposedly were thinking of you, did not send anything they wrote, other than a little excuse and maybe a sigline at the top of the email or post.

Instead of an actual letter, they sent or posted yet another chain forward that urgently tells, sappily pleads, perkily cajoles, or blackmails/guilt-trips or uses some other manipulation, or any combination of the above, tactic to get you to do the most important thing in your life!...PASS IT ON!

Why? What possible harm could that non-threatening, fun-promising chain letter do?

More than a lot of people think.

The problem is that your friends and their friends further up the chain, some of which may not even realize it is a chain letter, were duped by something started by complete strangers.

Many people think chain letters are only the "Pass it on and good luck will come to you. Don't pass it on and you'll get cursed." variety. But chain letters use every emotional angle imaginable, and come in a vast array of subjects. Some don't even tell you in a direct way to pass them on.

Signs It Is A Chain Letter gives tips on how to spot one, but basically, if it's viral, it is a chain letter.'

People who start chain letters:

A. At best, didn't have that as their intention, but it got away on them.

B. Are unaware that chain letter campaigns are not a good way to get things done and may continue circulating long after a goal is reached or a campaign has stopped. In addition, once they've joined the viral realm, they need to be checked out as true by discerning individuals who refuse to simply pass along something without thinking. For every viral that contains something completely true and inspirational, there are dozens more that are absolutely phony.

C. Are spoof writers and prankers who didn't intend for their work to take on a life of its own as a full-blown chain letter.

D. At worst, and very often the case, chain letters come from hoaxters and extremely misguided people.

Hoaxters, particularly those who make up sick kid messages and phony people to pray for, and phony prayers, are manipulative, power-tripping ego-freaks and bullies, spammers that love to get a huge laugh at the emotional expense of others.

Internet newbies and your friends alike, get duped every time they fall for and pass along a hoax message.

Who really knows an actual chain letter originator?

Sometimes they can be traced back to a specific person who started them, but many times they can't, and those who intentionally start hoaxes wish to keep it that way.

Hoaxters are the people who:

- Make up dumb personality tests that consist of nothing but nonsense, and then claim the Dalai Lama or Dr. Phil wrote it, and took it along with Oprah.

- cite and appear to have a link to a hoax-busting site included in them - especially Snopes. This is a trick to make the chain letter appear valid so the reader will just forward without question, because after all, if the forward has a Snopes link, then it must absolutely be true! Right?


The link the chain contains could turn out to be a debunk of the very forward that included it, or worse, it could be a masked link that looks like Snopes but if you click on it, it could turn out to be a malware/Phishing site.

- Make up sob stories and then call you every name in the book for deleting instead of forwarding their nonsense.

- Take a person's writing, strip the author of the credit that belongs to them, and instead, pass it off as their own or in the case of the "Slow Dance" poem, strip David L Weatherford of credit as it's real author, and claim it was written by a dying child that in actuality, never existed let alone wrote anything.

- Make up stories about missing or dying kids just to get people forwarding madly - only to turn out to be the child or adult her/himself who isn't really missing or sick at all, except in the head for their desperate and disgusting attempt at attention-seeking and manipulation of the masses.

Make up "Forward or die" hoaxes but use the name of a real person who died in a sick bid for credibility.

- Make up appalling lies to damage someone or company's reputation and write junk and then claim some famous person said it.

Maya Angelou did not write an ugly poem called Clothes accusing Timberland of being owned by the KKK as well as accuse Tommy Hilfiger falsely of racism.

In fact, Tommy Hilfiger is victimized by at least three chain letters that dole out malicious false accusations of racism against him.

The Blacks Don't Read chain letter is a pile of unmitigated racist rot that weaves the terrible rumor against Mr. Hilfiger into itself, along with so much other junk, that if ever there was one chain letter to turn anyone off the forwarding habit, this one ought to be it.

This editor and other sites that deal with this particular forward are far too kind toward it.

- Imply that you must be a racist if you don't pass on a bogus email petition.

- Try to convince you that your religion, gender, ethnicity whatever, is being severely threatened and that you can pull it out of the fire by spamming the net with a canned message full of malarkey disguised as news, advice, a boycott/petition, etc.

- Say you're not a good Christian and God will be ashamed of you if you don't pass on that chain letter upon which the entire world absolutely needs to save it!

- Some take things further still, telling you to email or even snailmail certain people or organizations, mailbombing them with the chain letter plus whatever additional comments you have been manipulated into adding to it. This is often a means of info-collecting, or may even be someone's idea of revenge against another person. What better way to get revenge on the net than create a hoax involving an email address and perhaps a certain name, and urge recipients to mailbom the unfortunate person's address?

One of many alarmist holiday related chains actually encouraged Christians to mailbomb the ACLU with Christian cards. When somebody sent that to a chat list I used to be on, I cyber-screamed, and not at the ACLU. Once again, a wrong-headed religious paranoia hoax struck, and people were duped. In fact, The ACLU Fights For Christians! ACLU Fights For Christmas Tree

- Make any kind of judgement against you by way of debasing your character if you don't forward, or praises and promises you good things for forwarding their junk...All to get us under their control so that we blindly or with very little second thought, pass it on.

People who start hoaxes like that are getting very sick kicks at others' expense! It's manipulative, attention-seeking behavior on a level that is so low and disgusting because people are getting jerked around just so a few amoral louts can get their haw-haws.

those who start snowball chains, hug-a-war chains, friendship balls, prayer wheels, (they call it a ball or a wheel in order to get people not to think of it as a chain letter) are often anonymous, so, could be the same as those who create dying kid and false religious rumors for all anyone knows. They manage to dupe internet users into thinking they are being good friends to their contacts by passing on this junk.

Where the missing and dying child hoaxters try to make you feel bad enough to pass it on, the people who start feel-good chains aren't necessarily interested in making you feel good, they don't know you. All they care about is getting you to distribute far and wide something they started. Their emotional angle is just a bit less dirty, but every bit as fake. You may not realize this if you've been hit in the heart by one of these things and are thinking they are something so warm and special. "Friendship" chain letters are phony. They are passed around and around, sometimes with slightly different poems, stories and sayings, and some are falsely attributed to famous people in order to sound much more profound and real than they actually are.

Hoax originators don't care about dying children, the Titanic, 9/11, hurricanes, tsunamis, racism injustice or any other grave situation, religion, gender rolls, our health, our reputations, our friendship, well-being, etc.

But they are counting on us to care, so they can use our emotions against us so we will keep the chain letters going.

For the hoaxters, it's about power, controlling the masses by email and web postings while hiding behind the anonymity the internet affords them!

This is what helps them get away with insulting and guilt-tripping you with "You are heartless if you delete this and don't forward it to 10,000 people within the hour!" then laughing at those they have managed to sucker.

There are several reasons chain messages keep perpetuating.

1. There's never a shortage of new people on the net, and they haven't yet learned about all the different forms chain letters take, how absurdly abundant they are and how they can play on every emotion humanly possible just to keep replicating. So they may have some excuse in the very beginning for passing around that canned friendship message, pseudo-religious feel-good glurge, or even that scary Nutrasweet story that looks so for real. Little do they know it and others like it started out as spoof news on a humor site and somebody thought it would be cool to forward it around without telling everybody its origin.

Chain letters, no matter how cute the picture or sweet and pleading the wording, apparently touching the story, amazing the technology, cannot grant them wishes, good luck, love and kisses, or friendship blip just like that for sending them on to anyone. They cannot literally or by any means, grant wishes any more than blowing out a birthday candle can. This, besides the fact it is a honking lie, is why Bill Gates won't send them millions of dollars abracadabra style as soon as they've hit that forward button and sent that message about him to everyone in their address book or friend list.

2. As chain letters continue circulating, they also continue to mutate. Stats and names may change from one version of a hoax to a newer version.

Before those big hoaxes claiming Facebook was overpopulated and was about to deactivate your account or would start charging its users came along, they squealed out false warnings that Yahoo, MSN and Hotmail, Bebo were shutting down. In addition, they tell you that your favorite place on the net is just crawling with hackers trying to add you as a friend to steal your account, information and your computer.

The scheme is always the same. "Forward this around to enough people and Yahoo/AOL/Facebook/MSN/Bebo etc. won't start charging you, you could be saving the world (or at least your computer) from hackers and your account wouldn't get deactivated!"


The sick kid hoaxes do the same thing. Jessica Mydek became Amy Bruce, who became Tamara Martin and a host of other ficticious sick kids with the same ficticious plight, and the very same wording from mutation to mutation of these particularly tasteless hoaxes.

The words of copyrighted stories and speeches get changed, "Forward or else you're a terrible person!" implied or said directly get added. Real authors get stripped of credit for their own work while others get their names wrongly attributed. Anonymous quotes get associated with the names of famous people who did not say or write them.

3. Newbies or not, even after they have been told about the problems with chain letters, some people just don't heed the message, choosing to go on forwarding the next nonsense or only partly true chain to arrive in their mail, on their social network space, and in the blogosphere. They still don't stop to question its validity, research to see if the story is true, check the web to see if that same cute pic has been posted to many other forums, and they have no inkling how often and how many other people may have already sent their friend that same fwd or something similar.

4. Some viral forward-lovers do not seem to remember that they had received and forwarded the same chain letter stories, jokes, half-witty ditties etc. as last year and the year before that etc. So, they are just as in love with them as they were during the fleeting minute they were when receiving the forward months ago for the second time, and a year ago when they received it the first time. So, they pass it along again.

5. The thought doesn't occur to them that they are spreading around something that is not only upsetting or alarming, but untrue, thereby upsetting or potentially alarming others unnecessarily.

The least that happens with bogus virals is the senders end up looking like dopes while seriously annoying and embarrassing their friends with these forwards. (Republicans and Christians, take heed...)

Worse still is when people end up having their names falsely attributed to chain letters they did not write, and this goes particularly bad if the chain letter in question is nasty.

Take the chain letter Allah Or Jesus. It is another sad example of Christian disgrace.

It has mutated to the point where it wrongfully cited Canadian defence researcher Michel A. Paul as writing/originating it.

Not true.

Paul is getting harassed by hate-mail he doesn't deserve because of this chain letter.

The real culprit is Rick Mathes (that link wasn't working when I tried it) who, according to others, lied through his teeth about the training exercise dealing with differing beliefs. There was no imam there, an inmate played the role, and he didn't "hang his head in shame" when stumped on something.

Whatever the dispute, it is considered religious hatemail, and has joined the various infamous chain letter pin-drops forward-loving republicans and Christians unfortunately treasure so much.

Worst case scenario, upsetting people who are particularly hateful and gullible, making for a very dangerous combination.

People have been threatened and attacked by those who believed in chain letter hoaxes.

No, there are no signs honouring 9/11 terrorists in Houston malls or anywhere else.

Let's look at another example of a false right-wing scaredy-cat chain letter petition.

The Red Arrows aerobatic team is not being banned from the 2012 Olympics for being too British. As they even state on their own site, the rumor and petition are rubbish.

6. They try to refute your debunk of their favorite chain letters with more chain letters, which are equally bogus and debunked just as soundly. OOPS!

Nonie Darwish did not write The Joys Of Womanhood But that chain letter was eagerly believed and posted by a far-right-winger on a message board, and further down the thread, she continued trying to backpeddle out of the trouble she started, by posting another chain letter hoax, this one about the non-existent ban on the subject of the Holocaust in UK schools.

people are predictingright-wing chain letter activity because unfortunately it is such a huge problem.

7. Some forwarders know it's a chain letter, even that it contains false info but don't care, believing it's so politically spot on, so darling, so inspirational, hilarious, cute, touching, tear-jerking, brain-teasing, etc. that they do exactly what it tells them - to pass it on to absolutely everybody or to some cheesily made up chosen number of people to fit their hierarchy of best chosen twelve or seven or eleven or whatever the number is the forward (often known as an 'fwd') specifies; or they figure their friends will simply be as wowed by the story or poem or funny picture, whatever it was as they themselves were, so will overlook the ridiculous threats, promises and demands in the fwd to spam their friends. They don't seem to consider the fact that not only is the chain letter contrived and designed to get a specific emotional response, triggering the urge to forward, full of misinformation or is completely untrue altogether, but the incredibly awesome of forwards that hit their inbox most recently has already been forwarded to countless numbers of people from countless other forwarders just like themselves, so, really isn't all that special.

No, much as it is longed for to have happened, neither Charles Darwin nor Crock Hunter Steve Irwin became Christians right before their deaths, at least, not in a way any chain letter can prove. Everything said in these chain letters is misinformation and third-person wishful thinking. What happened with Steve Irwin and Charles Darwin remains between them and God.

The glurge about John Wayne isn't true either. It even gets people's names wrong. The Duke did become a Catholic before his death, and did write a letter to Robert Schuller's daughter, but her name is Carol, not Cindy.

Pseudo-inspirational virals (glurge) can be especially offensive.

Take the disturbingly popular yet irredeemably awful story called Angels In The Alley. Some Christians probably really do love it or it would never have been retold. But it is just plain evil wrong on so many levels and it makes me livid and sickened!

It claims some angels in the form of tall men protected a girl from getting attacked in an alley because she believed in God enough and said prayers. It also says the man molested another girl who walked through that alley 20 minutes later No mention of this other girl having prayed for protection...

It implies that if you pray, you will be protected from attack, from angels who only value you as a human worth bothering about if it is spelled out in the story that you pray. Those angels couldn't care less about the next person to get attacked, and are more interested in who prays rather than stopping the attacker dead in his tracks. So, it's more sinful to not pray than it is to attack somebody?

8. Chain letters can split up friendships. They are so manipulative and powerful over some people, causing them to demonstrate an appalling value of virals over and above the truth, their friends, and their friends' feelings. Forwarders can get very snarky when they learn they are not saving the world or brightening someone's day with chain letters. It's easy for them to simply ditch a friend who is honest enough to give them the straight-up on the matter.

When faced with this frustrating situation, some recipients have no choice but treat habitual forwarders as spammers, even if these forwarders are friends, relatives, or acquaintances in real life.

So it goes on, people continue to pass on forwards, believing they are better and more appreciated than their own words.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Recipients get annoyed with chain letters, their originators, and forwarders for all of these reasons.

1. Even if they are meant to stay between a few select people, prank letters, especially when posted on a social network, turn into viral pests. This is because your circle of friends also has their own circles of friends, which in turn, have their own circle of friends, so, if you start a hoax about yourself as missing or dying or whatever, and your friends might think it's funny, but somebody else who is listed as one of their friends but not listed as your friend, looks at this friend's profile and bulletins, and this stranger looking at your friend's profile, sees your missing/dying hoax and assumes it's for real, and compulsively passes it along to their friends, who pass it on to theirs.

2. Passing on chain letter hoaxes can even get innocent people in trouble for stirring up unnecessary panic and clogging up resources with junk. Case in point, the flashing headlight gang initiation hoax has fooled so many people, from the average person on the street to officials. People have become alarmed, didn't think to check it out on snopes or breakthechain to make sure it was untrue before sending faxes and emails to many people at the corporate level. One person even got arrested for inducing panic. Ann Sibila sent fliers out, spreading a gang initiation hoax.

3. Another danger of chain letter emails is that every time they are passed on, both forwarder's and recipients' address are passed on down to millions of complete strangers, including spammers as the chain letters circulate. So, the more virals you email, the more spam you will get, and the more spam you will cause your friends to get as well.

4. Recipients know it's a hoax and don't like seeing their friends get manipulated into making the bad choice of passing along something that isn't true. This includes all the sappy so-called "friendship" and "blessing" chain letters as much as the urban legends.

5. They are incensed at the sick minds out there that apparently can't find anything better to do with their time than make up particularly sick lies, add heaping helpings of scary photoshopped pictures or guilt-tripps on top, and send them out in order to see how far the malicious hoax spreads and get a huge belly-laugh forward-or-die chain lettersat the emotional expense of others. This is particularly dirty considering how vulnerable and naive some people are, so, they are very easy prey for these anonymous hoaxing cowards.

6. They feel embarrassed their friends bought into it and insulted that anyone thought they would be silly enough to believe in it as well.

7. They feel abandoned by "friends" who couldn't be bothered to take that extra minute and send them a personal "Hi, how's it going?", opting to send them a bogus warning, email survey, stale joke, false celebrity essay, story or quote, political or religious rant, sappy tear-jerking story or stale fluffy chain letter that's about as real and personal as a TV commercial instead.

8. When they discover their forward-addicted "friends" are no longer interested in staying in touch with them, but continuing to send forwards to other people and forums, they have come to the cold, hard, sad realization that chain letter forwards are more important to these "friends" than they are.

9. The recipient feels they are being preached at, put down, judged and coerced. If one gets so many forwards telling them what friendship is and what a hug is and what a smile is and how meaningful it is to have friends, well gosh, one must be considered by the forwarders as a pretty inept person to need all these sappy sermon-like emails, and pretty stupid to believe that by spamming people's inboxes with this fake tripe one is "spreading around the love and blessings and friendship" please!

10. The forwarder doesn't appear to practice what their favorite type of chain letter preaches.

11. Recipient feels Insulted to be sent an email with some hairbrained claim they're supposed to believe, like forwarding to (spamming) 5 people will get you a peck on the cheek and passing it on to (spamming) 10 people will get you an engagement ring and how you are a better friend if you forward a chain and that if you get it back 12 times you have 12 true friends!

That's absolute bull!

What friend believes that? What true friend thinks one is stupid enough to believe it as well?

12. Infuriated their friend would send them chain letter threats for not forwarding an email, blog meme, Facebook wall post or whatever the medium. "If you don't forward this, I know you're not my friend." "If you don't pass this on, you'll never get kissed, never be hugged, never be loved, lose any friends you have now, and turn everything you touch into a block of tofu, a child will die, the god you believe in, whatever religion you keep, will be ashamed of you for denying him for refusing or forgetting to pass this on to all your friends/x people/as many as you can!"

13. Just plain sick of seeing the same old virals turning up again and again on web forums, blogs, and social networks, in addition to their private inboxes. Some recipients have simply had it up to here with getting forwards that have nothing at all to do directly with the sender in question, that have already been received several times from other sources within as many days and turn out to be another round of that awful heart-wrending tear-jerker story about that unbelievably altruistic fictional dead kid who reached out to his equally fictitious mom from Heaven with invisible ink or that girl dead from a drunk-driving incident, and the petition iss bogus and not even from MADD to begin with. In addition, these forwards:

- Are always going on about how you or your best friend could die or telling some other sad tale, along with heavy doses of attempted guilt-tripping into forwarding the chain further.

- Imposing belief systems the recipient doesn't share or doesn't require a preaching on and are often stories that are so far-fetched and prejudicial they've had the truth stretched out of them. Yes, Christians are among the absolute WORST offenders for sending this type of forward.

- Making the recipient feel as if they are being judged and told off for not having the right attitude about life, being told that somehow their own feelings and experiences are somehow invalid and unimportant and wrong, because somebody who has it worse off is infinitely happy all the time.

- Are always some kind of deliberately modified emotion-yanker.

Not to mention many were ripped off their original sources and embellished out the wazoo in an attempt to get the recipient's emotions to explode and shortcircuit into a forwarding frenzy.

Some of us are on to this scheme and seriously don't appreciate it!

Consider this. We are having a good day and we don't want it marred by yet another story involving cancer or near or completed suicide, or how some kid totally pwned an adult or two or twenty, or - shall I go on? Likewise, we may be having an average to not so great day and really don't want to be told it's our own faults for feeling less than bubbly because the unbelievable guy in that inspirational forward says "we choose our emotions."

14. Fed up to here with honest to goodness fun personal conversations and notes back and forth degenerating as friends seem to think that because we are emailing, we would like to receive chain forwards from them! So it goes from smiling at the sight of emails from these friends, to groans, frowns, rolling eyes, and sometimes all out scowls depending on how grievous the latest forward is that they sent.

15. The excuses for forwarding only add to the annoyance..

No one wants another's recycled junk, and that's exactly what chain letter forwards are.

Excuses, Excuses.

There are many excuses used for sending chain letters, some are added by the forwarders themselves, others may have been written into the original chain letter by the originator.

"Just in case it's true. It can't hurt, can it?"

Yes, it can. It is always better to look up anything you get in forwards instead of just passing them along "just in case." Hoaxters are counting on your feeling guilty enough about not sending on that hoax so that you will give into their scare-mongering and coercion, and do exactly what they want you to do. If anything, it's better to not forward, just in case it isn't really true.

"I don't usually send these things on, but this one is a must read!" "I hate chain letters, but just had to send this on!" "I normally detest email forwards, Myspace bulletins or blog memes but..." "I'm sorry if this offends you but I just had to send it." "I know you'll probably get mad at me for sending this but it's important!" "I know you hate these things but I just had to share!"

If you really hate chain letters so much, why on earth would you send one? If you thought the recipient would get put out, you should've held on to that thought and chosen not to forward. Half-baked excuses and apologies beforehand, neatly shown at the top of a chain letter doesn't make it any more acceptable and any less inconsiderate. It's enough to make one want to scream, especially if it turns out to be a good luck wish chain, joke or hoax or anything that insults one's intelligence or character.

"I always put a personal note at the top so they know I'm talking to them."

That doesn't matter. You still forwarded a viral which is a chain letter. Adding a personal note - doesn't make it any less of a viral. Here's a suggestion, email a personal note without sending the forward, you don't need a chain letter to help you write your friends personally and stay in touch.

"But I don't really believe all the chain curse stuff, I just liked the joke/poem/sayings etc."

That is what's called the 'hook' and it is the big manipulation. Give you a tasty carrot so you'll pass it along with the stick as well. It's still a chain letter, it's still viral, and you won't be the first or last person who was impressed enough by the joke or poem or whatever to pass it along, with the curse crap still attached. Whether you believe the curse stuff or not, passing it along, posting it without thoroughly trashing it makes you appear to believe it like a gullible schmuck.

"But I cut out all the chain letter crap and then make sure only to send the joke/poem/etc. to certain people."

That doesn't matter. If you got it from a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend etc. It's still a viral forward AKA chain letter. There's no way to make it a non-chain letter again once it has become one. The only thing to do then is to break it by not passing it on to anyone, no matter what the content or how much it moved you. There are plenty of other resources to look to for inspiration, humor etc. that are not viral net-cloggers trying to get mass-produced.

One way to be sure you're not passing along a viral is to Google it. Take some key phrase or words within it and Google it. If you see the same story, joke, etc. as the one now tempting you to forward, on a myriad of web pages, that should set off warning bells. It is a chain letter. Chances are at least someone on your contact list will have already received it, they don't need to get it again from you. Trending viral videos, jokes, and lists of advice on how to live life and what sort of attitude to have, are notorious for cropping up everywhere within a certain time period. This is why some of us have grown absolutely sick of the same cartoon or list of pithy sayings after getting them 5 times from 5 different friends within 3 weeks.

Regina Brett did write the column 45 Lessons Life Taught Me You can see the original here.

but she is not 90 years old. She turned 50 in 2006. Yes, that matters. Because if we're supposed to let one little chain letter lie off the hook, it gets so much easier to let all the other lies go unchecked as well.

Ms. Brett deals with the viral lie about her age in an ingenius and most entertaining blog entry.

Erma Bombeck did write on the things she would do differently if she could live her life over, but not as she was dying and not because of cancer, which wasn't the cause of her death.

Pamela Redmond Satran, Not Maya Angelou, Hillary Clinton or Jesse Jackson, wrote the piece titled 30 Things Every Woman Should Have And Should Know By the Time She's 30

Brian Moore, a Christian teen who died in an accident, did not write The Room. The real author is Joshua Harris.

Maya Angelou did not pen the I Am A Christian piece, that was Carol Wimmer. You can read the poem in its original form here on her site.

Edith Burns was not a real person, she was a fictional character in a story written by Russell Kelfer. Each of these examples, minus any chain letter demands attached, have merit because authorship is verified.

However, what happens all too often with stories as they go viral is they become part of coercive chain letters that make some sort of demand to be passed around, putting the recipient in an unwelcome tight spot. Besides, so many glurge stories are absolute downers, and it really gets to be a drag getting this heart-string-yanking schlock which tends to put a real damper on a good day.

If you really want to share jokes, inspirational goopy stories etc. all you have to do is let your friends know what your favorite sites are that contain this sort of content, and they can go there at their own leisure if that's what they're into.

"But it's real, I checked." "It isn't animation or photoshop." "It's a real person in that video."

So? There are real people in TV commercials too, including adds that look like amature video but turn into viral hoaxes about making popcorn with cell phones. Maybe the people are real, but the setup might not be. Even if it is real, if it's been forwarded all over the place, it's still a chain letter because it's viral and it's circulating like wild fire. If you got it once, you'll probably get it again from someone else, several times over, within a very short time. That is what happens with viral videos and funny cute pictures that are trending.

There are even forwards out there that make excuses for forwarding.

When confronted with the truth about chain letters, forwarders may and do become defensive and make excuses for their forwards, and/or completely ignore responses that debunk the forwards because somehow that just isn't as important to them as passing on junk that tells them to. A lot of people do this, and it can drive more jaded netizens to think seriously about getting off the internet altogether.

"Okay, I'll never send you another joke/inspirational story/etc again!"

Translation: 'I'm so hurt that you didn't like this email, that you actually had the audacity to question its validity, that you caught me in the act of passing on nonsense chain letters when here I thought I was doing you and all my friends this great service and injecting a little inspiration, laughter or something really super deep into your lives! I'm so mad at you for shattering my illusions and my pride has been so crushed that I won't ever speak to you again! I'll just go on sending this crap to everyone else who won't be honest enough to set the record straight and bruise my ego all over again!'

It's a forwarder's tantrum when they find out their friend-of-a-friend forwards are just chain letters that have been everywhere, are more likely to be bogus than true, and when looked at rationally instead of through the emotional forwarding fog, are not so amazing and profound after all.

Religious and political chain letters do a lot more harm than good, especially if they are actually hoaxes. Some of them may have even been started by some anti-Christian and/or anti-right-wingers, attempting to make a laughing stock of the religious/right-wing. Others have been started by some terribly misinformed and misguided religious or political fundamentalists.

The backlash they unleash is not just against chain letters themselves, but much more against republicans, Christians and Christianity itself. There is no excuse for hating on Christians, just as there is no excuse for passing on bogus chain letters. But this is how and why bogus religious and partisan virals bring out the worst in people on either side.

Despite all this, too many people, especially those in general agreement with at least some of the belief-systems of their forwarding friends, are in fact put out with forwards, but instead of saying anything, they put up with them in suffering silence, afraid of losing the already tenuous communications and friendship which has already been seriously undermined by habitual forwarding of chain letters by the senders.

Speak out, even as gently as possible, with a link to back up why the viral isn't the amazing cosmic snowflake the duped were led to believe, and this is what happens.

The forwarders either become defensive, simply abandon you as a friend, ignore and completely stop sending messages to you altogether, or all of these, in that order.

Yet, they continue to pass on chain letters to other people, some of which are just as sick of it as you but too afraid to speak up for fear of hurting the forwarder's feelings and possibly getting nixed as a friend.

When someone from the left side of the aisle or a non-Christian speaks out against right-wing religious chain letters, they simply get dismissed as left-wing partisans while the republicans and Christians continue trying to fight "socialism" with more chain letters.

But when a fellow Christian speaks out against this shady and annoying viral activity, the backlash from the pro-forwarding camp is fierce.

Clearly, in cyberspace, and especially in the realm of "friendship" "religious" and political forwards, it is treated as an absolute sin to expose the viral lies and phoniness for what it is. To them, nothing says "I LOVE YOU!" quite like a chain letter! So, we absolutely must be careful not to offend a forwarder, although our own principles, feelings, friendships as well as the truth will suffer, they are unimportant...

Chain letters are spam, not a legitimate medium for spreading any kind of information, love, friendship, warnings, news, or idiology.

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