I have a friend whose second son was one of those kids who said everything that ever came into his head. He asked questions, made comments, or told stories, even if they didn't have a point or were of no interest to anyone present. What they finally told him was "You can have a thought without saying it out loud."

I bring this up because there are a number of people to whom I have innocently given my e-mail address that suffer from the same type of disorder. They generally send me e-mails in batches of a dozen, all of which are prefaced with two pages of other people's address who I don't know but who have received this e-mail as well. After scrolling to the bottom of the e-mail, I am then assaulted with a list of jokes or an inspirational message that, to be honest, I could have lived my entire life without having read.

My plea to those reading this is to stop the madness. Just follow a these few simple rules when passing on these e-mails:

1. Consider your audience. Is the person you are about to send this e-mail to the type of person who will appreciate it? Although most people are bright enough not to forward sex jokes to their pastor, some don't have any problem sending sappy, feel-good stories to individuals of a more somber mein.

2. Consider the content (Part 1). Does this message NEED to be passed on? Personally, I use e-mail for communication, so getting a bunch of useless jokes and pictures doesn't really brighten my day so much. I will admit to having read some things that were worth the time, but they have been few and far between. Analyze the content of the message before hand and use some common sense in deciding whether or not to forward it.

3. Consider the content (Part 2). Does the message even make sense? I am amazed at the number of hoaxes and urban legends that are passed to me. Virus hoaxes, money-making schemes, and chain letters seem to abound. I wouldn't waste my time passing on a chain letter I received snail mail, why would I do so using my forward key? Check the validity of the information in your e-mail before you pass it on. A simple search on a search engine will generally save you the embarrassment of being informed that you have just wasted your friends and acquaintances time.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR CHRISTIANS: Being one I can say this in all candor: If you think that your faith is in some way enhanced by forwarding insipid "inspirational" messages to people which end with a statement like "If you love Jesus, you will forward this to 10 of your friends," you are sorely mistaken. You are simply falling to some cheap spiritual blackmail that is really beneath you.

4. Finally, if you do decide that the message passes all of these criteria and still needs to be sent, please cut the salient points out of the e-mail and send it on. Don't cause others to endure looking at page after page of e-mail addresses of people they don't know.

If we will all follow these few simple rules, we can stop the madness. Or at least slow it down a little.

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