A word to the superstitious: Ignore emails that threaten bad luck

Friday, March 13th, 2009

I received a forwarded email today, Friday the 13th, from a friend. The opening words were, “If you don’t share this with at least 2 friends, you’ll have a year of bad luck.” I didn’t even bother to read it. Whatever it had to say, I wasn’t interested. As far as I’m concerned, a threat trumps any value the message might have conveyed.  My reaction to such manipulative tactics is always anger, and I’m not apologetic for it, either. Here’s why:

When my son was 3 years old, a college friend of mine sent me a chain letter. It contained a warning that if I broke the chain, something terrible would happen to me. It went on to describe in detail some “examples” of the sort of horrible things that befell those who did not forward the chain letter: death, illness, bankruptcy, to name but a few. When I finished reading, I crumpled it up and tossed it in the trash. I was outraged that a friend of mine would try to coerce me into getting involved in some kind of scam by such underhanded means.

A few months later my little boy was striken with leukemia.

For years I considered that breaking the chain letter may have been one of many unprovable, but possible, causes of my son’s illness. Eventually, he recovered and I got over my irrational guilt trip, but when I receive any emails that contain a warning like that, I delete them right away on principle. Realizing how viciously manipulative the letter was, I routinely ignore and oppose any and all messages that threaten some kind of retribution, regardless of how valuable or innocuous the message.

A threat invalidates anything worthwhile. It’s a low down and dirty tactic. Why would you need to threaten someone to make them forward good advice? If it’s that good, rest assured, it will be all around the globe in a matter of minutes!