The Art of Reply-All, and How September 11 Changed My Email Habits

I think we all have had this happen, right? You email a big group, and one well-meaning recipient hits reply-all, putting their sentiments in the middle of people YOU know, but THEY don’t? And then someone ELSE takes exception…

And the shitstorm begins.

This is why I became BFFs with Blind Carbon Copy a long, long time ago.

Well, I know exactly when we became close – September 11th. That terrible time for our country was also a time I had the startling realization that I am a liberal. Like really, really a liberal. No kidding. I always considered myself middle of the road, vanilla pudding.

Until the September 11 emails starting flying.

My inbox was filled with propaganda from all sides, and I admit, I forwarded A LOT of things to people I didn’t know didn’t appreciate my feelings on the subject. Think about it, it was nearly ten years ago, and netiquette has come a long way since then. Think about the way you emailed back then, and how little you knew about the people you emailed.

I know our country was wounded, but the vitriol spread during that time was astrounding. And I admit to being wounded myself when I sent what I thought was an uplifting email and got hate back, lots of it. Anger and hate and YUCK.

To my whole contact list.

Now. I admit I will send an email back to ALL my mom’s friends when she sends a particularly crazy urban legend and they ALL could benefit from knowing that giant snakes are not going to infiltrate their house through the sewer pipes. Thank god, because giant snakes in the sewer would be TERRIBLE.

But essentially telling someone to eff off? After I tried to send a soothing email during a crap time in our country’s history?

Point being, I have never, ever since sent a group email where other people in the email could see the other people in the email. I also cut down drastially on what I send, and to who.

Of course, there is also a downside to that. Seeing as we have fantastic friends, the emails started: “Where are you?” “Why don’t we hear from you anymore?!?”

Second point being, finding a balance between keeping in contact and not offending, overloading or ostracizing anyone is hard. Damn, damn hard.

How do you do it?

This article has 16 comments

  1. zipper

    HA! I just don’t email anyone. 😉

  2. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Ben, totally hear you – it is hard from both sides!!!

  3. Autumn

    Damn email forwards…. I don’t open most anymore. I have a friend who married into an uber right wing fanatical family. He started forwarding me the most ridiculous crap. After sending him several Snopes links (and only replying to him .. not to all) I stopped getting the political crap from him. Until a few weeks ago when he sent me a ridiculous email touting how Snopes is sooo liberal and they are lying and they have a liberal agenda. WTF.. I put his emails on auto forward into my junk email box. I hate the division that many of these emails have caused. False information spreads like wildfire.

  4. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Autumn, that is a great tip too… I did that for a SERIOUSLY crazy friend about 8 years ago. I couldn’t even handle the heartburn of reading her emails and ALL they were were crazy forwards. I mean, I forward stuff and all, but I like to actually HEAR from people! And if all you are gonna do is forward me crap, bye.

  5. leila

    Nice to know I’m not the only one with a mother that seems to blindly forward everything she gets. We keep trying to explain to her that it isn’t necessary and that frankly much that she sends is not true, inflamatory and just honestly not fair. Wish it has worked but she keeps forwarding things on. Rather than ask off her e-mail list entirely I usually just open and toss. The entire concept of mass e-mail communication and the amount of misinformation that goes around the world in seconds is just amazing but I think the genie is out of the bottle and there is no way to stop it.

  6. OneCoolMonkey

    I had a very similar learning experience. I, too, thought I was pretty middle-of-the-road in my political leanings. In my past, growing up in the northeast, I had found lots to appreciate from the right wing representatives in my state, and while I didn’t necessarily agree with their social views, I was often on board with what they had to say about fiscal responsibility. And then came 9/11. Since then, as the GOP pushed further to the right, I’ve found that I’m quite happy with being labeled a “liberal”. It isn’t always easy in a red state like Texas, but that’s okay too. I’ve made some people think with the things I’ve shared. But I had that awful “reply all” backlash happen to me, too.

    I was just pointing out to a friend who had sent an email ‘forward’ that the email was indeed “false” according to Snopes (one of my favorite places on the web, hands-down). I provided a link and said that while I appreciated being included, I didn’t find the content of the email very agreeable. I want to say it was an editorial about “those darned muslims” or something like that, but I can’t even recall now. I got 3-4 responses from this friend’s friends back, telling me to ‘mind my own’ essentially…and the email from my friend asking what right I had to e-mail everyone in her list. It was a tough lesson to learn, and she had a point…but she could have also taken steps. Since then, all group emailings have gone BCC.

    Thanks for letting me ramble! LOL

  7. ZDub

    My ex-neighbor is a very nice woman in her late 70’s who insists on sending me every email ever regarding those damn Democrats (hi, I am one) and the “Where is the birth certificate?!” and I eventually could no longer take it. I emailed her back and politely stated that I did indeed vote for that damn Democrat and I think he’s doing a fine job.

    I haven’t heard from her since.

    P.S. I get the same emails from my in-laws but I don’t have the courage to tackle that. YET.

  8. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Z – don’t get me started on the BIRTH CERTIFICATE!!!

  9. imaginary binky

    I had emails like that from my sister, which basically caused me to snatch her bald via email volley. It was something about how Colorado had a giant blizzard and Centennial residents were walking to the stores and schools in 6 feet of snow, while residents of New Orleans couldn’t even heed a hurricane warning. Oh, I didn’t respond kindly to that.

    Then, I sent an email to thank my block neighbors for throwing us a baby shower for Amos. I received a most venomous letter from a former neighbor that he and his wife has been our closest friends on the block for years, saying that he was pleased that I was having a baby, but could I control myself in thanking him and everyone else while I gloated about my upcoming birth and how well my business was doing, especially since we had “known” about their own miscarriages? I found out later that he was completely embarrassed and drunk when he wrote it.

  10. rudecactus

    That’s a tough one. I have folks in my place of business who do not understand that it is not okay to “reply all” about every single thing. It’s maddening.

  11. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    Hi! 🙂 I just wondered over from Lifenut and I find this topic SO fascinating.

    I’ve recently come to the realization that I, too, am mostly liberal. Try fitting that into my Southern Baptist in the Bible Belt world, and you can imagine it gets tricky.

    So I have to confess – I’ve done a small amount of semi-subtle Politibooking on FB . . . just enough to put out a liberal vibe, and wouldn’t ya know it? MANY of the email forwards have just up and dried up.

    As far as BCC . . . yes! I learned that trick from a friend who lives in California and whose husband is in “the industry.” For the purposes of protecting identity/privacy for those on her email forward list, she used BCC with the main To: line addressed to herself. I thought, BRILLIANCE! You are so right – it works quite nicely.

  12. Hannah

    I have such a burr under my saddle about the fwd’ing thing that I won’t even respond to those “click LIKE if you…” or “copy and paste this as your status if you…” FB chain statuses that go around. I have educated everyone I can (even my ex-MIL) about BCC and even asked one or two people to remove me from their email contacts and I STILL get those forwarded emails.


    holy moly…giant snakes live in the sewers?

  14. Burgh Baby

    THAT is why I blog. I can’t get accused of not keeping the family up-to-date on what is going on, and yet I don’t have to listen to their hate-filled propaganda. It’s a beautiful one-way sort of communication we have going on.

    Just don’t ask me who is having a baby or is getting married or whatever. I have absolutely no clue.

  15. Sarah

    OMG! I am sooo glad that I am not the only person who feels like this. There is really only one friend who sends me right wing hatist crap. The last one was a comment on Medicaid supposedly that a doctor (poorly) wrote. It was his assumptions about a patient who was on Medicaid. This patient had a nice new cell phone, jewelry, new shoes, etc. Besides the fact that it was riddled with racist undertones, what really irked me is that this woman’s daughter and granddaughter are on Medicaid. She had just told me about how a friend had given said granddaughter a bunch of Baby Gap and other posh baby clothes. So I simply replied (only to her) that this misconception on the part of the doctor could happen to her own grandbaby when at the doctor’s office — all decked out in brand new looking high end baby clothes while on Medicaid. She didn’t take nicely to that.

    Nor did she take nicely to me pointing out on many occasions that her emails were intolerant and often had no point. Now that I have read these comments, I think one she forwarded that gave the impression her good friend wrote it might have been much more widely circulated. It also mentioned “those damn Muslims” but also included some much more hateful and controversial commentary that I cannot even stand to repeat.

  16. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Sarah, that is an amazing story! I hate it when people are so lacking in self awareness.

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