By Jason Menard
Hello, my name is Jay, and I have a small penis.
At least, that’s what my e-mail tells me. On top of that, it’s a small penis that underperforms, judging by the deluge of solicitations for Viagra and phallus-enhancement utilities that I receive. But, just to let you know, this stunning revelation has yet to stop the deluge of willing women just itching to either meet me or perform on line for my gratification.
And that tiny member should soon be dwarfed by a rapidly burgeoning bank account. It seems that I’m a prime candidate for any number of politically challenged foreign dignitaries and multi-billionaires who have been soliciting my help to transfer enormous amounts of funds into my account.
Yes, if money and power are the ultimate aphrodisiacs, I should be living on easy street any time now. With just a few clicks of my mouse I could be a wealthy tripod, with a harem of imported Eastern European brides by my side and just-of-age teens shaking their moneymakers on my screen.
Or, more likely, I’ll just delete all these messages, unread, unreplied to, and quickly forgotten. After all, what would my wife think?
Despite doing my best to prevent Spammers from harvesting my e-mail address, I still find my e-mail account’s Spam folder regularly filled with this type of unwanted solicitations. So what can we, as end-users, do? Unfortunately, nothing at all. We can choose to wring our hands in frustration and rue the day that we created this e-mail account, or we can laugh it off as a small price to pay for free, instant communication.
Spam won’t stop until Spam stops being effective. Obviously, out of the millions of solicitations that go out, a certain percentage of people are clicking through and – more importantly – buying the wares that are presented to them. What seems ludicrous to the majority of us obviously strikes a chord with a certain segment of society. Whether they’re looking for love in all the wrong places, or dreaming of a get-rich scheme, there are people for whom Spam is a welcome solicitation.
Look at the topics that junk mail focus on: sex and money, the two topics that can create an intense feeling of insecurity for some people. Whether it’s penis size or pocketbook size, there is a significant subsection of our society who feel emasculated in this world due to a perceived or real lack of both. So, when an anonymous e-mail professing quick fixes for either situation, those who are most vulnerable to this type of persuasion are most willing to take a chance.
Many of us laugh at the Spam e-mails we receive, revelling in their grammatically challenged subject lines or schoolyard bluntness. Yet, we’re not the target audience. Those who are sitting at their computer, feeling deficient either in the pants or the pocketbook, or those whose greatest source of intimacy comes from the warmth of the screen upon which these images are flickering are the target.
The Internet has given rise to a new generation of technological Snake Oil salespeople, looking to make a cheap buck in the same manner that their Old West forebears did – by playing on the naiveté and dreams of a bunch of Rubes. But instead of hocking their tonic at local fairs and travelling circuses, they do it from the comfort of their living room – with the world as their audience.
The great irony of the Internet is that while it’s made the world far more inclusive and accessible to everyone, it has also heightened our sense of isolation. For all the increase in contact through Instant Messaging and e-mail, we’ve reduced our actual face-to-face communication. We are interacting more with the world, all the while feeling less attached to it.
That sense of anonymity breeds loneliness and insecurity for some. Talking on-line is so much easier than meeting in person, and, as such, it increases the anxiety of actual real-time social interaction. For some, their inadequacies become amplified by the simple lack of human contact.
Why should we be surprised when people react to the promise of a better life with minimal effort? That’s what Spammers rely on. Those who are most vulnerable will be the ones most likely to act.
So, while many of us will either laugh about or rail against the intrusion of these ridiculous e-mails, perhaps we should take a moment and remember that we’re getting these messages because, targeted to a vulnerable sub-section of our society, they work. And that’s the saddest statement of all.
Remember, while we may be navigating our way along the Information Superhighway, there are a number of people out there just looking for the on-ramp to join in – any way they can get it.
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