One day I sent her a forward that just happened to contain a couple of curse words in it. She pulled me aside and had a conversation with me about the e-mail and how uncomfortable she was with the whole thing because it's against her religion to curse.
Ever since, I have thought long and hard before forwarding any e-mail. I don't want to be the person that brings someone to the point of being so uncomfortable they need to sit me down about it. Here are some guidelines on forwarding e-mail:
Rule No. 1: No forwarding of political/joke e-mails to the unsuspecting unless you are 210 percent sure that your audience is going to appreciate the message or joke.
That's right, family, I'm talking to you! Last week, my mother forwarded Mr. Data and me a terribly political e-mail. Not only is she fully aware of our apolitical beliefs but she also has seen my reaction to several other family members forwarding similar e-mails.
I have repeatedly sent polite requests that they leave me off their e-mail lists -- and they never ever do. Don't be like my family and barrage your friends and loved ones thinking you will change their minds. You won't. If anything, they might block your e-mail address.
I'm no e-mail Nazi; there are perfectly appropriate groups for e-mail forwards. If you're a recovering alcoholic who discovers a beautiful poem about the glory of waking up clearheaded and without hangover, by all means forward it to all your AA friends. Do not however, forward this e-mail to your co-workers or family who, upon reading it Saturday morning/afternoon slightly cloudy and perhaps a little grumpy from that extra martini, are going to have one thought: Shut it, jerk.
Rule No. 2: No forwarding of warning e-mails.
This one is so much harder. Who can't help but think, "What if my good friend is driving home tonight and gets killed by a thug/gang member who flashed their lights repeatedly at her?" As a warning, you forward the e-mail.
Resist the urge. It is a hoax and you are perpetuating the panic and general distrust of the world at large. If you'd feel better, forward it to your friends with a disclaimer: "I know this is a hoax, but you matter to me so please be careful." It's understandable; we live in a big crazy world. Never forward these messages to your professional contacts.
It's pretty easy to check some of the myth-buster sites, such as: Snopes.com or hoaxbusters.org. Check out these sites first so at least you know the origins of the story. Otherwise, it can be pretty humbling when someone replies to all in the group that this particular story is fabricated.
Moral of the stories: Be wary of what you forward. Any e-mail with your name in the sent field implies you are endorsing it.
Reach Heather Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.