USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Email’
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Chain Emails

Chain emails are emails that are sent to several recipients so that more people eventually receive the message. They appear while individuals are checking their inboxes. Often, these emails contain messages contain requests asking recipients to forward the email to others. These can manifest in many ways. For example, one may offer a funny joke and ask that it be shared with the recipient’s friends. Others threaten recipients with bad luck unless they share the story included with someone else. Some may even offer monetary rewards in return for passing the email along.

The informant, Ian, is a 21-year-old university student who considers himself a gamer and internet enthusiast. Ian initially received one of these emails soon after creating his first email account while in middle school. He feels that most of these emails are frustrating scams, since they often ask for private information and the email addresses of others so that the senders can have more victims to spam. He was taught this idea by his parents, who had been using email accounts for much longer than he had. Over time, Ian has programmed the junk inbox in his email account to detect and delete these messages, since they are impossible to predict and completely avoid.

This phenomenon is fascinating because it represents a negative aspect of the internet that we have become accustomed to. Because so many of us have come to expect these emails, we have learned to simply accept them as an unavoidable nuisance, even though the true intentions of the senders can be quite nefarious in nature. The internet is not that old, so it is interesting to see that so many have accepted its unpleasant features without attacking their sources head on in order to end them.

Examples of Email Chains can be seen here: http://www.units.miamioh.edu/psybersite/cyberspace/folklore/examples.shtml

Imler, Dan, Ben Nagy, TaraLyn Riordan, and Asmeret Tekeste-Green. “Examples of Chain Letters.” Folklore and the Internet. Miami University, 11 Mar. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

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