You know that 50 Cent line, “I love you like a fat kid love cake?” Well, if Fiddy was rapping about seniors he might have said, “I love you like a senior love to forward crazy emails.” That line might not have made for quite as successful a song, but it definitely would have described a percentage of older Americans (just a percentage, thank goodness!). A few years ago I somehow ended up on the email list of my nearly eighty year old uncle, and ever since I’ve received 3-4 emails a week unlike any I get from anyone else.
What makes my uncle’s emails “weird,” exactly? For starters, their subject lines almost always start with “FWD: fw: fw: fw: fw:” But it’s not just that these emails have gotten around more than photos from Prince Harry’s trip to Vegas. They also almost always feature gigantic, oversized text (which is easy on senior eyes), cutesy fonts like “handwriting” or “herculanum,” and messages written entirely in bold with lots of exclamation marks!!!!!!!!! That’s just the form of the emails though. What about the content?
Let’s start with the subject lines. I’ve noticed that a disturbingly large amount of them start with a desperate plea of “PLEASE DO NOT DELETE!!!” Of course, after reading enough of these, that’s exactly what I started to do. Here are the subject lines of a few that I deleted as fast as I could:
“Islamic Gay Bar – Funny!”
“Wake Up America!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Important! Don’t Delete: Starbucks Hates our Troops!”
“FWD: FW: THIS IS 100% REAL! PLEASE READ!”
Before I started deleting these things sight unseen, however, I did read enough of them to understand that they fell into one of a handful of basic categories. There were the mildly misogynist jokes of the “Take my wife, please!” variety, the conspiracy theories easily proven false on Snopes.com, the urgent warnings about allegedly imminent computer viruses that have been emailed around for years and years, and the rants about how today’s generation pails in comparison to The Greatest Generation.
That’s not all, though. There were emails that began, “If you could only email this to twenty other people…,” emails with endless photos of guys showing off giant fish they just caught, and emails about how “Obama is a Muslim/Socialist/Hates Freedom.” There was even an email that time hasn’t treated too kindly, as it talked passionately (in oversized font and bold letters, of course) about how there was only one man fit to be our next president: Rick Perry.
The craziest thing is that these are all forwards! Literally, in three years I have received hundreds of emails from my uncle, but only a couple of which he wrote in his own words. I always complain to Heather about these wacky things, and she jokes that I should just reply with one word: “Unsubscribe.” I can’t do it, though. In a strange way I find these emails almost comforting because they’re a weekly reminder that my crazy uncle is still alive and well. I like to picture him sitting at his computer in his home in Florida, guffawing or shaking his fist in anger, then thinking, “This email… This is an email that I must send to EVERY PERSON I KNOW!”