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June 2000

Sick of Email jokes

Stop forwarding me jokes!

I hate email jokes. There, I’ve said it. It is not an easy confession to make, as the practice of forwarding marginally funny material to family and friends is a beloved pastime and fiercely defended by many. I already lost one friend after asking her to take me off her lengthy victim list. My father removed me from his office pool only after polite hinting — “I’m just too busy to read them all” — proved ineffective and I was forced to be direct. The sharing of cyber humor is often a well-meant gesture, and one out of every 50 jokes is actually funny, but, for many reasons, I say no thanks.

Before the telephone made worldwide communication possible, and later affordable, the art of letter writing was perfected and embraced. When message conveyors began yakking instead of scribbling, letter writing became a thing of the past. For a short time — in the early 1990s, before most people knew that the World Wide Web was on the horizon — the fax machine revived the need to put pencil to paper. The facsimile letter was cheaper than a phone call and faster than the postal service.

Enter, email. Now we are able to keep in touch with our loved ones and those we hardly know. Unlike the letters that arrived per Wells Fargo, we are now able to tell mom what we are cooking for dinner and read her answer for dessert. I love the Internet. It is an invaluable tool for expats and truly the window to the world. No encyclopedia could contain the information available to me, and for that I am grateful. Email jokes, however, leave me cold.

A prime example of my frustration with the aforementioned quip onslaught is the experience of my best friend; we’ll call her Olive. Prior to meeting her when I was ten, Olive had a different favored pal; we’ll call her Katherine. Olive and Katherine remained close throughout high school, but lost touch when Olive moved to Germany in 1984. Several months ago, Olive was delighted to receive an email from her long-lost chum. The two exchanged emails for a couple of weeks, catching up on weddings and children, and recounted stories of prank phone calls, after-school Twinkie snacks and Beautiful Hair Barbie. In her last email to Katherine, Olive asked more pointed questions about her friend’s life and shared more insight into her own. The response was an unexpected one, and, incidentally, the three letters that make me see red: FWD. I believe the first affront was a rather sexist joke about the differences between men and women. Subsequent replies to Olive’s pleadings for a personal letter came in the form of chain letters, the hurtful and ridiculous Darwin Awards (if you haven’t seen those, you will) and dancing holiday icon downloads. Olive has given up on her former playmate, and, unfortunately, her memories have partly been replaced by disbelief and disgust. Lesson to be learned: junk mail is not an accepted form of keeping in touch.

I love you. They are the words one secretly hopes discover in the “Subject” heading of an email, sent by an attractive secret admirer or cherished relative. Last month, this declaration was packaged in the form of a deadly computer “worm.” Why on earth would anyone even open a mail containing a joke attachment these days? Like forgoing condoms, it’s just to risky.

Now I’ll make myself even more unpopular. Who is paying for the hours spent sending jokes during business hours? I am, of course, no saint. I enjoy a quick surf on company time now and again. However, some days I received — before I put a stop to it — up to 20 forwards from a variety of desk-bound cohorts. Later in the day, at least one of those people would call to inquire if I’d laughed or not! At first I was polite: “Ha! That was a good one!” (Deleted it without reading.) “No, that’s okay, leave me on your list!” (Thinking of changing ISP.) “Yours are the funniest!” (For a three-year-old, maybe.)

When I finally batted my eyelashes and coyly asked my cronies to stop, I was greeted with hurt, “you-just-ripped-out-my-heart” faces and emails begging me to change my mind. To date I have not, and will not, revoke my ban. When the little voice announces, “You’ve Got Mail” I may have received only a few, but at least they are genuine. All the blonds, illiterates and White House officials will have to live without my scorn. Chain letters and urban legends will have to circle the globe without stopping at my house. I’m too busy for all that, I’ve got complaining to do!

tell a friend