“Please respond or Some Stranger will think you said no :(“

I never really got used to the idea of MySpace “friends” and Facebook “friends”, a concept that seems to appeal mostly to teenagers seeking peer-approval. Friends are not objects you collect like others collect postal stamps or or sports memorabilia. Real friends are there for each other when we need someone. With my friends, years may pass without us meeting, but when we see each other again we pick up just like we last saw each other only yesterday. I know them and they know me and we don’t have to explain much. I would never think of showing them off on a website like others show off their gold chains and SUV to boost their self image. This is not at all what friendship is about.

For over two years I’ve been receiving emails coaxing me to join a website called tagged.com, supposedly sent by people who consider me their “friend”, but who I invariably do not recognize. I suppose they have my email address in their address book because they probably reported Nigerian scams to me before (I collect several hundred reports per day, most of which get processed automatically), but I could not possibly have had a two way email exchange with more than a small fraction of them, let alone built a friendship.

Here is a typical example:

Firstname has added you as a friend on Tagged.

Is Firstname your friend?

[ Yes] [ No ]

Please respond or Firstname may think you said no 🙁

Click here to unsubscribe from Tagged, P.O. Box 193152 San Francisco, CA 94119-3152

Invitation spam

The tagged.com mails are just one example of a category of what I consider invitation spam, because they server no real purpose other than getting me to join a website that I have no interest in joining. The supposed sender already has my address and can contact me any time if he has something to tell me and if we really were friends, chances are I would already have his email too.

What I find particularly annoying about the Tagged.com emails is how they try to pressure the recipient into clicking the “Yes” link by exploiting people’s considerate nature. Most of us don’t unnecessarily want to hurt other people’s feelings. Therefore this line gets really on my nerves:

Please respond or Firstname may think you said no 🙁

Interestingly, the same annoying phrase (either including the colon, left bracket frowning negative smiley or a positive smiley) started appearing in several other invitation spams that don’t mention Tagged.com:

From imvu.com, August 2007:

Hey Joewein,

Firstname has added you as a friend on IMVU.

Is Firstname your friend?

[ Yes] [ No ]

Please respond or Firstname may think you said no 🙂

From MyYearBook.com, November 2007:

Firstname has added you as a friend
Is Firstname your friend?

[ Yes] [ No ]

Please respond or Firstname will think you said no 🙁

Click Here to block all emails from myYearbook, 280 Union Square Dr., New Hope, PA 18938

From Yaari.com, February 2008:

Firstname Lastname wants you to join Yaari!

Is Firstname your friend?

Yes, Firstname is my friend! No, Firstname isn’t my friend.

Please respond or Firstname might think you said no 🙁

The Yaari Team

You are receiving this message because someone you know registered for Yaari and listed you as a contact.
If you prefer not to receive this email tell us here.
If you have any concerns regarding the content of this message, please email abuse@yaari.com.
Yaari LLC, 358 Angier Ave, Atlanta, GA 30312

To this day I am receiving a mix of Tagged.com, MyYearbook, Yaari and IMVU emails from various people.

The only party who really gets anything out of this type of (probably automated) email is the website owner. It actually doesn’t matter whether you click “Yes” or “No” on those spams, either way you’ll end up on a web form to provide personal details to join the site.

Many social networking sites ask for access to your Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook or other address book when joining. They then send everyone in your address book invitations in your name. Thus the game continues as long as address books aren’t empty and at least some people click on either “Yes” or “No”.

When I receive such emails, I usually archive them to a folder in my mail cabinet that I named “Plaxo-Ringo” after the first two websites that spammed me like that in significant volume. I archive them for research purposes, but if you’re not a spam researcher like me you might as well delete them.

Just like on Facebook and MySpace I never act on “friend” invitations unless I have a genuine personal relationship with the sender, and neither should you. There is no need to feel guilty about discarding spam that is meant to sell commercial websites, even if it masquerades as something much more personal and precious, like friendship.

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