Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Think Before You Send!

by Pam Ripling

Gossip. I've been waiting for this topic to come around, wanting to comment on the recent go-round of forwarded emails describing a planned gang initiation that was to take place a local big box store. Three females, the message read, would be murdered at the site, and recipients of the email would be wise to stay away.

While I, personally, did not receive the warning, by afternoon, my 13 year old daughter had read it on her cell phone, my girlfriend had it on her Blackberry and my adult son mentioned he’d seen it on his own phone. That evening, our local high school district had released a statement, phoned to each subscribing household, that the message was indeed a hoax, one that had been forging a nasty path through several other states since 2005.

The whole incident got my back up. My daughter was upset, my friend was justifiably concerned. Both struggled with what to do. Do we call the Sheriff? Do you think they know? I assured them both that the missive was a malicious attempt to stir up fear and possibly even launch a “denial of service”-like scheme as an attack on Wal-Mart, the store mentioned. I don’t know the legal term, but I do know you cannot attempt to prevent patronage of a business based on a fraudulent claim. Whether you like or dislike Wal-Mart, the point is that this could just as easily have been aimed at Mom & Pop’s Bakery on the corner.

My parents used to tell me, when I was a young, impressionable child, “Don’t believe everything you see on TV.” Because we did, back then. Yeah, people joke about it now, would never admit to it, but we did think that if we saw it on TV, it must be true.

Just after 9/11, I received an email warning me to stay away from our local Mall, because it was targeted to be blown up by terrorists. In the nightmarish atmosphere that pervaded following the attacks, I was ripe to believe anything. I immediately forwarded the email to everyone in my address book. I was quickly and gently reprimanded for falling prey to an internet hoax, and I have since refrained from sending anything to anyone without first checking with Snopes (which I consider to be the best online source for debunking urban myths and hoaxes.)

The case of the gang-initiation-at-Wal-Mart email is no different. I took the opportunity to use the incident as a learning experience for my daughter. Just because someone you like or know from school sends you (what you might call)“forwards” doesn’t mean that it’s (a) true or, God forbid, (b), you should perpetuate the “forward” and add to the needless hysteria intended by some sick mind.

Pam Ripling is the author of middle-grade mystery, LOCKER SHOCK! Buy it at Quake, Fictionwise or Amazon today! E-book version now available for your Kindle! Visit Pam at


Martin Bartloff said...


Great blog!!! Cell phone messaging in general is where a lot of rumors and gossip begin these days. Your Slogan "Think before You send!" sinks in very deep while too often we regret words after we sent already sent them. One of my teen employees brought his girl to work on a Saturday once, he put a stool up for her next where he was working, then pointed a fan toward, because it was humid. Him and I always joke around the shop. So I sent him a text message asking if he was going to carry her to the rest room if she needed to go (as a joke). Standing at the other end of the shop I heard his cell peep, I look and out of HER pocket comes his cell phone Grrrr. I thought I was going to faint right then and there.
Pam, Thanks so very much for your blog comment. Your say so means a whole lot to me!


Alisa@Foodista said...

Love this post, because of the availability of instant messaging tools like SMS,email,twitter,it's hard to know which is true or not.This post is a good reminder to be careful and watch our actions.

Ophelia Julien said...

You'd think we all enjoy perpetuating fear and hysteria, the rate this kind of message goes around, first by e-mail and now by cell phone. I wonder what on earth our species gets out of spreading this kind of story?

Pam Ripling said...

It's actually kinda scary. Our local law enforcement now watches Twitter. A recent high speed chase through our community resulted in the news being Twittered while officers were in pursuit, causing people to flock to the scene and potentially impeding justice! Giving it some thought, the Sheriff's Dept. figured out that tweets could work both ways: they could be apprised of incidents as they went down.

Mary Cunningham said...

Wonderful blog post, Pam, especially since instant messaging is so much in the news this past week.

So much that is posted these days needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but then how do we know when to take threats seriously?

But, as the example you used from Twitter, IM's can be used with positive results.

nige said...

"I took the opportunity to use the incident as a learning experience for my daughter..."
exactly. I did this the other day, " just because someone tells you something, it doesnt neccessarily mean that its the truth. there are usually two sides. listen to what i said, think about it, say " i heard this from so and so" - but make up your own mind as to what is the truth or not..... investigate the truth, it is not often clear, including in the papers.....