This article was originally published a few years ago as a guest column in the Edwardsville Intelligencer's "Edge" weekend insert.
What’s the big deal with spam?
I’m referring to the unwanted email, mind you, not the highly dubious canned meat product (it deserves an entire column to itself).
Sure, spam clogs up our inboxes. Yes, we waste many minutes of precious surfing time deleting undesired messages and appending mail filters. And, technically speaking, this electronic junk mail absorbs precious bandwidth and slows the entire internet down. But what about the positive side of spam?
Everyday, I’m gratified to open my email and discover 15-35 unsolicited expressions of hope and reassurance. My future sure looks brighter now that I can eliminate my credit card debt, increase my ability to please my lady and start a great career working from home. Those email subject lines inform me that I can get brand name software cheap, cleanse my colon and receive a complimentary gift, all without leaving my keyboard. Now that’s a pep talk!
The encouragement doesn’t stop there. Can I roll with the big boys in an imitation Rolex watch? Sure! Test out a new laptop, and then keep it for my troubles? Why not? Finally get my degree, from an online university that no one’s ever heard of? Spam says, “Heck, yeah! Just click here, and all your wildest dreams will come true.”
These digital rays of sunshine help to offset the outpouring of negativity I receive electronically from friends, family and co-workers. Nary a day goes by that I’m not informed that my cell phone number is about to be sold to telemarketers, or that a looming stock market crash threatens my investment portfolio (when did I get one of those?). Beware, they say, the Me_Tarzan_You_Gates virus is going to erase my hard drive and install “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” as my operating system!
This friendly fire is bringing me down. I’m sure the tone-deaf, ankle-less, goat shepherding boy in Abawanda could benefit from the 1/227th of a cent raised for every person to whom I forward that dreadful message of woe. But now I’m too depressed even to probe my address book for other loved ones to drag into despair.
It’s much more uplifting to read this email from a nice man in Zimbabwe whose wealthy uncle, the Baron, has just passed on. He’d like to share half the inheritance if I agree to funnel the money into the States using my private bank account. Isn’t that swell of him?
I read these awkwardly phrased, horribly spelled cries for attention aloud each day like a self-help mantra. I can have thicker, fuller hair. I can afford off-brand health insurance. I can find love in my zipcode.
And I can savor the satisfaction of clicking “delete” and sending each and every piece of electronic junk mail to its digital doom.
It just feels so good!