December 18, 2009

'Tis the Season for Forwards

I receive a fair amount of forwards from coworkers. Occasionally they are funny, but because the majority of the messages are comprised of misinformation, hoaxes, vigilante politics, assorted intolerance, and/or expired news, I often start my jaded engines as soon as I see the letters F and W. Usually, I end up spending more time researching the validity of the claims than I do reading or enjoying the messages. It is extremely rare that I ever pass one on to someone in my own address book.

(I'll now take this time to praise Google Reader, where friends are able to publicly make note of interesting, funny, informative, entertaining items and I have the ability to peruse them at my leisure. It's also good for subscribing to blog feeds, hint hint. )

This morning, my inbox was greeted with "FW: Say 'Thank You' to Our Troops" and it, in turn, was greeted with my eyes rolling. This is partially because I'm an asshole, but mostly because it came from somehow who has cried "wolFW:" many times before. Let me ruin the ending of this tale and tell you that this forward is actually a legitimate, good-natured call-to-action request, but because of its amateur composition and the poor reputation of the medium, it's an uphill battle to get the real message into the heads and hearts of someone (paranoid) like me. There's a lot of room for improvement with the forward genre, so I'm going to dissect this one in hopes that similar messages don't fall through the inbox cracks. (I don't know why I'd even think of assisting the International Association of Email Cloggers, but here we are.) Skip to the end if you don't want to deal with my windbaggery.

Before I even get any further, the first problem is that there was no personal message from the person who forwarded it. I know the point of forwards is that you just read and click "Forward to Everyone and their Amazin' Email-Readin' Dog" in one fell swoop, but if you aren't going to take a second to give me a quick gist of what you're getting me into, I won't take it seriously. I assume you're either passing it on because of a superstitious, obsessive compulsion with forwarding or because it says something vaguely xenophobic and you want to cowardly let the message speak for itself. This is the point where I immediately start scanning it for "Love it or leave it", "Boycott Gas Station X" or "make sure you say 'Merry Christmas,' not 'Happy Holidays.'"
The Holidays are especially hard for our troops. Maybe this small gesture will help in some way. Thank you, Xerox!!
Based on the subject title alone, I figure this is be a slow-clap at the airport thing, or generic say "Thanks" or think of the troops thing, but mentioning Xerox there really threw me a curve. With my corporate spidey senses tingling me, I start scanning for dollar signs. Instead I just see lots of exclamation points. (Just as a quick aside, IAEC copywriters... two exclamation points are rarely acceptable. Use only one or three. Or fifteen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
"Cool," huh? I know some folks that work for Xerox, and I don't recall them ever doing anything particularly "cool" in the name of their company. (To Xerox's credit, I think they brought a cookie basket in once or twice.) And I think I've said this in a blog before--when a corporation says something is cool, it's not cool.
If you go to this web site, you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq/Afghanistan. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to a member of the armed services.
Another red flag--a random URL in a forward. Looks harmless enough, but you can't trust anything these days. Maybe if it were, I'd feel a little more comfortable, but I still wouldn't click it. Try, "Go to and click on blahblahblah for details."
How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!! It is FREE and it only takes a second. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these?
EASY there CAPITÁN. If you're looking to drive my attention to all the capitalized words, all I'm going to see is XEROX COOL AMAZING FREE. I don't think that's the puzzle you want me to put together, is it? I know you're feeling very passionate, but you're also getting a little repetitive and pushy.
Whether you are for or against the war, our soldiers over there need to know we are behind them.
I respect the relatively neutral statement. Ok, not everyone supports the troops, but I appreciate that the author kept things broad here and didn't take an easy cheap shot against any country's or administration's policy.
This takes just 10 seconds and it's a wonderful way to say thank you. Please take the time and please take the time to pass it on for others to do. We can never say enough thank you's. Thanks for taking to time to support our military!
Whoa, now we're up to 10 seconds? Let's not give mixed messages here. Now all I'm focusing on in how many different writers felt they needed to add their own touch to this forward. One person gave 1 second, another offered 9 additional. One wanted you to "please take the time" and another wanted you to "please take the time" while you were pleasingly taking the aforementioned time. What I'm getting at is the more people who get their paws on this letter and add their 2 cents and 10 seconds, the less clear, trustworthy, professional it seems. Forwards and chains are the ultimate games of Telephone and none of it feels believable, so if you're a person that pushes things along, at least do your best to make them more palatable for the people you're trying to influence.

All right, so I ruined the ending earlier in the post--this site is actually legitimate and fairly easy to navigate. Xerox's website has a link in the middle of their page. The caption reads "Send a free printed postcard to U.S. military personnel stationed overseas. Personalize the postcard to show your support and appreciation for their service to our country." Follow the link, select your artwork, then a standard or custom message. I chose one of the rare non-US-centric drawings (coincidentally drawn by a kid from NJ), borrowed a couple lines from a standard message, eliminated the religious slant, and added a few lines of my own and then my card was added to the queue. Simple as that. Apparently, they've been doing this for a few years now, and I'm surprised that this is the first I'd heard of it. If you're like me and spend most of the time complaining instead of saying thanks, this is probably the service for you.

Thank you for your service. Your bravery and strength of character represent what America stands for. I greatly appreciate the sacrifices you've made and continue to make on behalf of a country of millions that you represent. Though we may never meet, you're in my thoughts. Thank you again and again.

(By the way, it took 4 minutes and 46 seconds.)

No comments: