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Guest Column

Bad manners maketh the SPAM

Where have all our manners gone? Gone into cyberspace, every one.

Email is a fact of life. Unless you're over eighty, nobody's going to give you a "Get out of cyberspace free" card.

But progress comes with its price, and every new invention brings more intrusion.

The printing press spawned junk mail. Alexander Graham Bell's fabulous phone begat telemarketers.

And now, thanks to the endless capacity of the Net, I am being subjected to your sister-in-law's sappy story about a little girl and an angel. A stupid cyber chain letter that she couldn't be bothered to cut and paste, but has instead left the twenty-seven forwards at the top of the text forcing me to scroll down 15 screens only to find that, if I don't send it along to 72 of my closest electronic pals - AND the person who sent it to me - in the next 20 minutes, my own guardian angel will die and my heart will shrivel into dust by the end of the day.

Well, guess what? The hex is on you, because I've already hit Delete. And furthermore, I'm tired of you clogging up my computer with your electronic emotional blackmail.

Call me hard-hearted, but I checked with Anna Post of The Emily Post Institute, the country's foremost authority on etiquette, and she has informed me that YOU are in fact the rude one for invading my Inbox.

Post, great-great-granddaughter of the late Emily herself, says, "People don't use the best judgment when they send you things." She suggests, "Unless you know that people like forwards and they have told you that they do - don't send it."

When an etiquette expert whose family business serves as the "civility barometer" for American society confirms that it's bad manners, it's time to take your elbows off your desk and listen. Emilypost.com offers 10 great tips for 21st century Net-iquette. But I've taken the liberty of creating a few of my own:

1) Hold the Hoaxes - I know you got it from your brother-in-law, but your forwarded urban rumor has long since been proven false by Snopes.com. I hate to break it to you, but Starbucks did not refuse coffee to the military; Hillary Clinton has not killed anyone; and Bill Gates isn't giving any of us a million bucks any time soon.

2) Fix Before Forwarding - If you're fixated on forwarding, at least have the courtesy to delete the stuff sitting on top of the text. I'm not your secretary, and I shouldn't have to troll through seven forwards and five never-ending signature lines to get to the actual message.

3) Purge Presumptions - Just because I look like you, don't assume that I share your political views - even if we're related. Post says, "Presumption is one of the most impolite attitudes. It's inexcusable. If you do it without knowing, you look ignorant. If you do it on purpose, you look arrogant." It is, she says, "Atrocious."

4) Bcc Your Buddies - I don't really want your Amway-selling neighbor to have my personal email address. If you must mass email, don't publicly post everyone's address in the Send field. Bcc (blind carbon copy) sits right below Send and Cc. Use it.

5) Fix Your Filter - Just because you have 37 documents pertaining to the issue, doesn't mean they're particularly useful. And, while you may be pondering the matter at length, that doesn't mean I want to know your entire thought process. Save the stream of consciousness for your diary. Put a SPAM filter on your brain and just send me what I need.

So, next time your sister shows up in your Inbox, feel free to delete her puppy parable. I promise nothing bad will happen to you.

Unless of course, you make the mistake of forwarding it to me!

Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally syndicated columnist and the author of "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.ForgetPerfect.com.

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