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I can't say I know much about the history of chain mails and the like. However, it would seem that snail mail communications of that type would more likely end up in the trash because of the amount of attention and conscious handling involved. So, in a way, I do think that being able to simply click a few buttons here and there make it more likely for chain mails in that medium to work. I actually had a couple of scientific journal articles on chain mails somewhere now that I think about it. I may have to find those and read over them again. Although, if I remember correctly the medium of communication plays heavily in whether or not such an item is forwarded or not.
Interesting blog. I've often pondered the same question myself, especially after seeing someone whom I'd thought "knew better" forward one of these bulletins/emails, LOL.
To continue the discussion: what sort of chain communication did people forward before there were emails and bulletins and other electronic forms of communication? Was there anything else besides chain letters? Those required time and effort, and we all know that the vast majority of those ended up in the trash can. Which leads to the next question: why were they thrown away? Was it because people 20+ years ago didn't actually believe in them (as opposed to most people now, it seems), or because they were just simply too lazy to go through the effort of forwarding the chain letter? If the second reason is the answer, then does that mean that most chain emails/bulletins nowadays are forwarded because it's easier to click a few buttons and clog up a friend's inbox than it is to stuff an envelope and make a trip to the post office?
Didn't mean to bombard you with questions there, LOL! You've brought up a topic of which I've been wondering about for a while. Every time I get one of those emails or bulletins, I instinctively make a judgement about that person's intelligence level--and it's usually not a good one. I know, I know. But seriously. If Bill Gates isn't going to randomly start passing out money to all Microsoft users, he's SURELY not going to do it if I don't forward this email to everyone I know.
(He especially wouldn't be passing out any free money to me anyway, seeing as how I don't do Windows. *grin*)