I’ve always felt that whenever someone gets their very first computer with their very first email account (your dad, or grandma for instance), there should be some kind of "boot up" screen in their email program:
The bootup screen would take them to an Email Aptitude Test before they can send any email across the intertubes. Here’s what it would teach them…
Congratulations on getting your first email address! Now don’t screw this up. Here’s what you need to know before you can send your first message…
- In about 3 hours, you will receive an email from a Nigerian prince. Throw that away. All the cool email users ignore that guy.
- Don’t ever post your personal email address on any website. Don’t use it to sell stuff on eBay, or join message boards, or anything like that. If you do, complete strangers will begin sending you all kinds of nasty junk mail (we call that spam). Keep your email address private. Go and get a free email address at Gmail or Yahoo or Hotmail NOW and use that address whenever you need to buy something or post something. Only share your "real" address with close friends and family.
- Speaking of close friends and family, they will be delighted that you have an email address. But don’t send them any funny jokes, or funny web pages, or scary rumors, or chain letters. Trust us, we’ve already seen it. Like 2 years ago. Don’t make things awkward for us. Wait at least 2 years to "catch up" to the rest of us, then you can start sending out links you stumble upon. Note: the only exception to this is Chuck Norris facts. If you get new Chuck Norris facts, go ahead and spread the word.
- If you get an email from a stranger, do not believe one single word of it. Assume it’s a scam. If you get an email from a loved one, assume their computer is infected with a virus, and the virus is impersonating them. To send you a scam. Pretty much 99% of all email is a scam or a lie or an urban legend, or it happened two years ago (see Rule #3). Bookmark Snopes now.
- Don’t open any attachments. Ever. Don’t send any attachments either, until you’ve mastered the art of compressing files (making them smaller, so they pass through the Intertubes easier). Also, wait until the prerequisite 2 years have passed before you do any of this.
- If you are a man, and you get an email from someone who claims to be a beautiful young woman, that’s a man. If you’re a woman, and you get an email from a nice, kindhearted man who wants to make you happy, he’s a convicted felon writing you from the prison library. Trust no one.
- You will get spoofed. It’s inevitable. Spoofing is when one of your friends gets infected with a virus. The virus scans that friend’s address book for all the contacts, and then impersonates those contacts when it sends out more junk mail. People will receive junk mail that looks like it came from you, but it really didn’t. Those people who reply and complain to you are newer noobs than you. Ignore them. But this is one more reason for Rules #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, and #6 above.
- When you get junk mail that you never asked for, click the "Junk" or "Spam" button in your email program. If you get email that you did ask for, do NOT click the "Junk" or "Spam" button. If you do, you will receive 5 stupidity demerits from Al Gore, who invented the Internet, and a kitten will die somewhere. If you signed up for email, and then you lose interest, just click the "Unsubscribe" link in that email. That means they’ll remove you from their list. If they still email you after that, then click the "Junk" or "Spam" button. No kittens will die in that case.
- Etiquette: Typing in ALL CAPS IS LIKE SHOUTING AT YOUR FRIENDS. It’s rude, so don’t do it (unless you’re really angry).
- Learn how to use the subject line. Make sure all your subject lines actually describe what the subject of your email is. Don’t keep hitting reply to the same message from someone, while leaving that old subject line from some past discussion intact. Create a whole new message, then type a new subject line.
- All email programs have "Junk" or "Spam" folders now. Your spam filter automatically throws spam into that folder, to try and save you some time and frustration. If you’re expecting an email with baby photos in it, and you’ve been waiting for days, don’t get mad at your daughter (she’s didn’t forget you). Go check that junk folder. It’s probably been sitting there all along. Spam filters are not perfect. You can train spam filters to "learn" who is "friend" and who is "foe." Learn how to do that sooner than later.
- Learn how to use your Address Book. Add friends and family that you actually want to hear from in your Address Book. It will prevent #11 from happening too much.
- If you get an email from PayPal, or your bank, and they ask you to "confirm your account" just ignore it. It’s that Nigerian guy in Rule #1. He’s phishing for your information.