Thursday, December 18, 2008

Spam I Am

The first thing I do each morning is check my e-mail. I look forward to reading gushing compliments on my writing, promising leads for my business, benevolent greetings from my friends, and the occasional death threat from an angry malcontent who feels that I've ruined his life. Often, those e-mails are there, but to find them, I have to sift through a veritable ocean of spam.

Cheap Viagra. Free laptops. Hot stock picks. Young amateurs. Real diplomas. Grocery vouchers. Security updates. KFC gift cards. Penis enlargement drugs. Replica Rolexes. E-card deliveries. Investment opportunities. Paypal alerts. Travel discounts. Legal settlements.

Marketers and sellers and phishers and hackers and scammers and con men and Bernie Madoffs. They're all online. They're all taking advantage of naive Web users. They're all clogging our in-boxes and slowing down our servers. They're all wasting our time with spam.

I have it worse than most. Because I work on the Web, I have at least 25 e-mail addresses. Some of them, I've never used. Still, the spammers found them. They're relentless, they're unscrupulous, and they're careless. Some spammers have identified me as a German woman named Belen Swasey. Therefore, many of my e-mails are in German and market female-oriented products. Unsolicited e-mail sucks, but unsolicited e-mail in a language I can't understand about shit I'll never use REALLY sucks.

According to my systems admin, nearly 95 percent of the e-mails that hit my company's server are spam. Blocking spam is a multi-billion dollar industry in the US alone. In Nigeria, the number one career is spam con artist (number two is assistant crack whore). It's obvious that spam is a problem, but the question is why? The answer is simple - spam is a problem because it works.

If nobody was clicking on those "special offers", if nobody was buying those hard-on drugs, if nobody was revealing their social security numbers to identity thieves, if nobody was exposing their computers to spyware and worm viruses, spammers would pack up their bulk e-mail software and find something else to do.

Ah, but that wouldn't happen. Some people are just idiots. They're given the most powerful computing technology that's ever existed and they use it to get suckered, they use it to do things they're embarrassed to do in person, and they use it to waste their money on useless crap. Who are these people?

Who keeps falling for the African scams? At first it made sense - you get millions if you give out your bank routing number and your life savings to a complete stranger. But after all these years and all these reports on Dateline, people still haven't wised up?

Who's investing in stocks that are recommended in spam? Fuck, who's investing in stocks at all these days?!?

Who's so desperate for affection that they'll open e-cards from people they don't know?

Who's buying all this Viagra? I knew erectile dysfunction was a common affliction, but based on my inbox, everybody's limper than Stephen Hawking!

Who's getting diplomas online? Are they really going into job interviews holding their recently purchased PhDs in physics from MIT?

Who looks at an offer for a Wii or an iPod and thinks it's real? Do they really think they get free electronics just for having an e-mail address?

I don't know who these people are, but they're out there. Yes, they're out there patronizing the spammers. If they weren't, there would be no spam.

You may say it's not that hard to deal with spam. When it comes in, just delete it, right? Unfortunately, when you you get 700 e-mails a day and 650 of them are spam, it becomes a major pain in the ass. This is especially true on the iPhone. Most people see me fingering away on my cool new microcomputer and think I'm using one of those cool apps featured on those cool commercials. No, I'm deleting spam e-mails one at a time because the iPhone doesn't have a delete all button. I probably spend an hour a day dealing with spam. Add that up over a lifetime and it's costing me more than two years of my life.

So, yeah, spam sucks. We must put an end to it. We must find those fuckers that click on those links and kill them, or at least tell them to stop. If we do, we'll live in a land without spam, a land where we can view our forwarded porn and Facebook friend requests and legitimate money-making opportunities without interruption. Dare to dream! Dare to ignore spam.