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City Boys’ ‘viral’ Email: Please, Let People Be Silly in Private

Posted on the 08 February 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
City boys’ ‘viral’ email: Please, let people be silly in private

Careful writing that ironic email. Photo credit: Freewebs

This afternoon, after I was getting my haircut, in private, undisturbed,  I received an email from a friend. Not an unusual occurrence, you’d think. This one had been passed on, though, through several hundred hands. You may have read about it (or read it) by now. It comes after many such similar ones.

Remember the mother in law’s letter to her son’s future wife? Or the girl who left a list of instructions for her guests on her birthday? Well, this one has even less reason to trouble your newspaper’s pages. And yet it does, and I fear that there will be many more such things.

Here’s the story. Four young public school men who work in the city had come up with a list of “rules” to abide by on their trip to Dubai for the rugby 7s; they’d also written biographies of themselves, accompanied by photographs. They call themselves the “G4″.

It is clear to any one who reads it that this is a harmless piece of fun between four people who know each other well. The rules they’ve come up with are obviously ironic: “Mentioning parents’ salaries once a day,” being one of them. The biographies consist of the sort of chat that the rowing boys at my university used to bat around – not at all intended to be taken seriously. For example: “Due to his age and competency he will be President of the G4 and will be respected by his peers at all times – no one doubts his ability to stay strong throughout the tour,” says the President’s biography. And if it isn’t ironic – then really, who cares what four people think about themselves? They only have themselves to blame if they don’t pick up the women they think they might. If they’re that deluded, let them stay that way.

So far, so unexceptionable. And yet it’s been picked up by the papers as an example of  bad boy city behavior. The Daily Telegraph had the decency to call the email “tongue in cheek.” What was worse, though, was the tone of all the emails that were copied in to the ones I received. I’ll quote from some of them. Anonymously, of course. Because I’d like the writers of those emails to keep their privacy.  ”If it goes viral, it could be career-limiting for them. Fingers crossed.” Then: “ I think these boys are stepping closer towards viral suicide!!”

What really, really is objectionable is that glee. That ferocious, appalling glee of watching people hurtle towards doom. The original email, between four friends, hasn’t harmed anyone; and yet, as it snowballs, normal people with respectable jobs who have no link to the original senders seem to lose all sense of perspective.

Next time you write something ridiculous, make sure you send it by pigeon post – as you won’t be able to trust your friends to keep it to themselves.

This is what the internet does. It removes context, makes us all into peasants jeering at the men in the stocks. But what we should all remember is: there but for the grace of God go I. Next time you write something ridiculous, make sure you send it by pigeon post – as you won’t be able to trust your friends to keep it to themselves. And then you’ll find the full force of the internet’s gawping idiocy upon you. A plea to everyone: let people make fools of themselves – but in private. Newspapers: stop giving air to this sort of thing. And to people in general – think before you press the forward button. It might be you with reddened cheeks next time.


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