We all remember a time where a creepy post or longwinded e-mail painted an elaborate story urging you to share it. Sharing is a powerful thing on the internet, and individual people and companies alike will go above and beyond to harvest cheap interactions.
One of the easiest ways for posters to convince users to share their messages is by asking directly. Adding in another emotional factor is a great push to offer an incentive for users to forward the post along. It’s common for chain mail to promise terrifying (or fantastic ultimatums), but does this mean you should pass them along?
What Is Chain Mail?
Chain mail, also known as chain e-mails or chain letters, refers to messages aimed at getting recipients to send out or forward a specific number of copies. While some use this media as a platform for scams, these messages usually don’t serve much more than getting notoriety and getting shares.
This phenomenon even existed before the age of the internet where individuals prompted people to send out physical letters to people. This tactic was a staple for classic pyramid schemes back in the day.
The content of these messages is often more than your traditional spam, though. Nowadays, the type of messages people are more likely to share involves chain e-mails that “make a promise” to those who pass (or fail to pass) their messages along.
Most of us received at one time or another through social media or our spam folders. Usually, they start out detailing a story and quickly shift gears into what will happen to you depending on your reactions to the post.
There are some more innocent posts claiming things like “10 years ago today a young man saved a dog. SHARE WITH 10 PEOPLE IN AN HOUR AND YOU’LL HAVE GOOD FORTUNE. DON’T SHARE IF YOU WANT MASSIVE DEBT!”
While certainly convincing, they aren’t nearly as alarming as some of the more notorious chain messages. Sometimes original authors bring their scare tactics up to the next level. Horror chain letters meant to scare you help develop urban legends and even horror movies about these.
Stories normally start with a warning, urging you not to continue “or else,” which, of course, just entices readers to go on. They tell of some generic story like a girl who was bullied and found in a well or a star athlete who disappeared one day. They always end up with a scary threat relating to the story, like “SEND THIS MESSAGE TO FIVE FRIENDS BEFORE MIDNIGHT OR XXX WILL BE WAITING AT THE FOOT OF YOUR BED! The last person who didn’t do it DIED.”
Who Writes Chain Letters?
When chain letters serve an obvious purpose, it’s easy to connect them back with their owner. If you receive a chain letter that’s an obvious marketing stunt or recruitment tactic, it’s easy to see why someone sent them. However, why do people send fictitious stories around the web?
Truthfully, it’s almost impossible to find out where they originate. These messages circulate between so many people and it becomes challenging to pinpoint who sends it out first.
If the original sender doesn’t gain any personal fame or fortune, why would they start something like a chain message? Some people find doing these things fun and festive and don’t care for the credit.
Has Anyone Died From Breaking a Chain Message?
When you think about what a chain message is, many of us laugh about how stupid they sound. No random writer on the internet locked us into some weird curse by creating chain messages.
Of course, it’s easier to sneer at these messages when you aren’t the one opening it up alone in the middle of the night reading about how a person “just like you” didn’t take it seriously and met their demise shortly after.
Coincidences happen, and by statistics alone, it’s not crazy to think that something bad happened to someone who “broke” a chain message by refusing to pass it along. However, it’s very extreme to assume that it was any fault of the chain message itself.
Chain messages are just a prank or joke that no one should take seriously. You don’t need to worry about deleting it from your inbox or flat-out ignoring it if you have no interest.
Why do People Report Hauntings After Chain Messages?
Especially if these myths are circulating in your clubs or schools, it is not uncommon for someone to swear they have hauntings or other strange things from participating in a chain message. It is very similar to people watching live ghost hunting shows or movies on demonic possessions “based on trues stories” report weird encounters.
These feelings of someone watching you or horrible nightmares are psychological phenomena. When you get worked up about particular subjects, it does impact your psyche a bit, making you jumpier than normal and hindering your reasoning a bit.
Do Chain Messages Have Any Risks?
While you don’t need to worry about ancient curses and creepy ghosts, chain messages are not without any dangers.
Chain messages are an effective platform for cybersecurity threats. Imagine if someone manages to code a virus or phishing link into a particular letter. All they have to do is send it to some people and the worried recipients take care of passing the message along to other potential victims at an exponential rate.
Be sure to learn how to tell whether or not an e-mail is fake or not before trusting links or files.
While not everyone will fall for clicking on a suspicious link or downloading a sketchy file, there are bound to be a few people along the chain message’s journey that will give in. Even chain messages sent on social media platforms, like Facebook Messenger, may contain bugs that lead you to deal with “hacked” accounts that end up spamming your friend’s list.
Also, be sure not to fall for phishing scams. Some messages ask you to share seemingly harmless answers that turn out to be common passwords or security questions.
Should I Be Afraid of Chain Messages?
Chain mail is nothing to worry about any more than a fictional horror movie or scary game. They aren’t magical spells or scary curses that will put you in danger (or give you riches).
If you find one make its way into your inbox or chat app, consider ignoring it if you aren’t a fan of that genre of entertainment. Those who love everything crime and urban legend may feel free to enjoy these stories without needing to worry their lives (or the ones they love) are at any kind of risk.
From scary stories and short films to frightening podcasts and games, you can have a terrifyingly good time for free online.
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