(6/15/2003) When we receive a letter about helpless innocents in danger, we think that the more people who know about it, the more likely they are to get the help they need. Unfortunately, this chain demonstrates all-too-clearly the danger of assuming that all such letters are intended for the world at-large.
On April 28, 2003, Maria Alvarez' husband brought home 9 adorable puppies. After a few days, the Pasadena, California resident penned the above entreaty, attached pictures of the irresistible urchins and sent it to a small circle of friends. Within 24 hours, the puppies had all found homes.
Unfortunately, our story doesn't end here.
In a short time, Maria's e-mail had circulated beyond her circle of friends. It was posted on several message boards and from there, found its way into thousands of inboxes. Early versions of the chain retained Maria's contact information, prompting hundreds of calls and letters about the dogs.
Some versions lacked contact information altogether, but that didn't stop them from spreading. Janet Boyden was just one of many who have forwarded this letter, but a well-meaning forwarder made the mistaken assumption that she originated it and moved her e-mail address from the message's header to the body, in yet another case of False Attribution Syndrome. She has undoubtedly received many inquiries about the dogs, of which she knows nothing more than we do.
It's natural to want to help others in need. So natural, in fact, that we don't stop to consider the long-term consequences of our actions. E-mail is a terrible tool for spreading information like this. It cannot be tracked, it cannot be retraced and it can be altered by anyone who receives it. Before you send anything via e-mail, stop to consider if it's something you'd want the world to see. And, before you forward an e-mail you did not write, imagine how you'd feel if the world assumed you were the scribe? Break this chain!
Category: Real, But...