Netiquette lesson: True love is blind

Good boy.

Good boy.

Imagine opening a holiday card and finding stapled to it a printout of the names and addresses of everybody in the sender’s address book … including yours. Seem strange? Of course it does. Think you’d ever do something so stupid? Of course not!

Or would you?

If you’ve ever forwarded (or originated) an e-mail to three or four (or thirty or forty) friends and associates by pasting their addresses into the “To:” field of the message, you’ve done exactly the same thing. And shame on you. Consider this …

Your e-mail address, not unlike your cell phone number or your post office box, is coveted by telemarketers and other unscrupulous collectors of personal information. The more times your address is flown across the Web, the more likely it is to be intercepted and the more likely it is to begin to accumulate unwanted attention … like spam.

I receive several e-mails a week in which I find my address embedded in a huge cluster of other addresses, usually preceding something I’d have opted out of if given half a chance. What’s worse, I can be reasonably sure that some people on the list will tack a chunk of their own address book to the top of the list and send the whole ungainly mess merrily on its way.

Did I give any of these people permission to publicize my address? No. Will they accept responsibility for increasing the amount of junk mail I must sort through each day? No. Do they realize that such public displays of affection, erudition and amusement are just plain rude? I sincerely hope not.

There’s a better way

Nobody’s suggesting that you stop sending group e-mails, especially those inviting men to increase their manhood or earn money selling decorative household items. Please send me lots and lots of those. I’m only suggesting that you do it without letting the rest of the world know how much I like hearing from you.

And here’s how:

Below the subject line in your e-mail’s header are two fields. One is labeled “CC”, which stands for “carbon copy” and the other is labeled “BCC”, which stands for “blind carbon copy”. The second one – BCC – is the one you should use any time you want to send the same message to more than one person at a time. Each recipient of a message sent this way sees only his or her own address in the “To” field and no other addresses anywhere. They are “blind” to the rest of the recipients on the list.

The trick to sending blind carbon copies, whether you’re forwarding or originating, is to put your own e-mail address in the “To:” field and paste all the other e-mail address in the “BCC” field. That’s it. No additional steps. Easy peasy!

The message will arrive looking like a private communication, rather than propaganda thrown from a plane, which common sense tells us should increase its chances of being read. And you’ll look like a thoughtful correspondent, rather than an inconsiderate schmuck, which common sense tells us should increase your chances of getting a reply.