The best advice I can give about email forwarding is to be extremely cautious before forwarding anything to anybody ever. If there is a legitimate purpose for forwarding something, then go for it. You’ve received a document from a client and you need to share that document with four of your co-workers. Go for it. Your missionary sends you an email every week for public consumption and you forward that email to a mailing list of people who want to receive his letters. Great.
What you want to avoid most of the time is the junk mail that comes into your email inbox, particularly the stuff that encourages you to forward this to everyone in your address book. My rule of thumb is that anytime I see an email that encourages me to forward it to my friends, that’s my cue to delete it. I don’t need the social pressure imposed on me by thoughtless friend or family members in behalf of a total stranger.
When you do forward things, make sure to forward only to people you personally know, and who you know explicitly want to receive it from you. I’ve been on mailing lists in the past where I’ve received from some friend a daily joke, or something else that I willingly signed up for. That’s great. But sending regular junk mail that people didn’t ask for is inconsiderate.
The biggest problem with email forwarding is when they spread scams and hoaxes. There is a very simple rule to follow before forwarding something. Please pay careful attention.
Before even considering forwarding something to your friends, you must personally verify THAT IT IS TRUE! That means that if you don’t personally know that it’s true, you shouldn’t even consider forwarding it. But what if it’s hard to tell? Then don’t. What if it sounds true, but you’re not completely sure? Don’t.
This is a very simple rule that will save your friends and loved ones countless moments of grief and help you preserve your relationships.
Think twice before forwarding e-mail. The jury remains out as to whether forwarding messages is acceptable. Obviously, it’s sometimes necessary for business reasons, but people do it far more often than they need to. Philip Zimmermann, creator of Pretty Good Privacy encryption, has said he’s not a fan of forwarding e-mails. How often would you even think of taking a handwritten letter you’ve received, making a photocopy, putting it in an envelope and sending it off to someone else? Zimmermann says the same thought and respect should go into forwarding e-mail.4
We’ll talk more about hoaxes a little later.