Snopes is a website dedicated to getting to the bottom of countless urban legends and scare-lore emails that have flooded all of our inboxes since the dawn of inboxes. As stated on the homepage of their website, Snopes is "the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation".
Someone has sent you an email warning of the toxic effects of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers? Snopes will give you the answer! They are not full of formaldehyde and capable of rubbing out your children and pets.
Have you been warned via email about the 809 area code, and how you can be saddled with phenominal long distance charges? Snopes can ease your fears with the answer to that one, too. It even advises when there is partially true and false information, so they're not in the business of trying to hide anything.
Have you been told that Microsoft's Bill Gates is giving away his money and if you forward an email, you'll cash in? Have you been told that forwarding an email will save the life of a child? There are as many variations to these two urban myths as there are company names and children's names.
What about the warning not to sniff perfume samples at the mall door? Have you given up buying Glade Plug-ins because of the fire hazard? Do you no longer microwave food in plastic containers because some unknown entity has said it releases cancer-causing agents?
What I'd like to know is this - why are people so apt to believe these scare stories they read in emails, and forward them as if they're legitimate and authentic?
Friends I love very dearly send them to me, knowing that I am going to research them and reply back! I'm as predictable as a gerbil on a wheel when it comes to this. I know what they're up to, though, and it just makes me smile.
But others, with whom I've had this conversation before, adamantly believe whatever comes in their inbox, particularly the one about the Magic Erasers, and will not buy them anymore, regardless of the questionable source of their information. That's ridiculous.
Intelligent, well-read, educated people will receive these emails, swallow whatever it says as if it's the Gospel truth, and forward it on to me.
Don't you think that the scare-mongering media would be all over a story about a kid dying or being poisoned from a Magic Eraser, or if there was a pattern of people being carjacked in shopping malls because of notes left on rear windows? Why do people read these and automatically believe them?
And, it's not even as if these look like legitimate warnings. They're usually in big, bold, hyper, panicky-looking text, and often start off saying "Verified by Snopes.com". More often than not, the ones that state "verified by Snopes", aren't!!! If you actually take the time to go to Snopes.com, which I always do, Snopes will usually tell you exactly the opposite of what the email claims.
Then, too, there is the disclaimer at the end of some, that states, "Not sure if this is true or not, but I'm not taking any chances, so I'm sending this to everyone in my address book." This gets my goat, bigtime, seeing as how this is simply laziness on someone's part. A couple of clicks will disprove the email's claim, a lot fewer clicks than is required to forward something misleading to everyone you know. My inbox is there for MY convenience. I don't want it filled with scare-mongering falsehoods or requests to send business cards to a dying child so the Shriners will provide him / her with medical care. This particular one started in 1989. This dying 9-year-old is now 31. Not only that, how sick and twisted would the Shriners really be if they withheld medical treatment from a child because he / she did not provide the requisite number of business cards? Dumb-dumb-dumb. Every way you look at it.
So, the next time you receive one of these ridiculous emails, like the one warning of identity theft from hotel room keycards, please give it a moment's thought first of all, and then, if it seems like it might have a modicum of truth, consult snopes.com. Don't you owe it to yourself to exercise a little critical thinking, and arm yourself with facts, instead of mindlessly spreading scare-lore from illegitimate sources?