I receive a lot of spam. I think we all do at this point. You sign up for a free webmail account from Yahoo or Gmail or whathaveyou, pick out a nice username that is clever and easy to remember and unique to you, and when you log into this new account for the first time there are already 37 unwanted messages waiting to persuade you to join a thinly-veiled pyramid scheme, to convince you that cialis is the answer to all your troubles, or to sell you prescription drugs you can’t get anywhere else at this low-low price.
I can expound all day on how much this annoys me, and not merely because I’m annoyed by people wasting my time (which I am) or because I’m annoyed by the flagrant inefficiency of untargeted marketing (which I am). What drives me nuts about spam – babbling, drooling, thumb-sucking, straightjacket-wearing nuts – is that it works. Somewhere out there, not just one but hundreds – if not thousands – of people are reading these messages, thinking “maybe my weight problem will simply go away if I buy these pills!” and clicking their way to another dead-end purchase. The supposed effectiveness of these products aside, is this really a viable economy? Are people actually sending real, legal money and in turn receiving an actual, tangible shipment of miracle herbs, Home Depot gift cards or “Exquisite Replica Watches”? Despite my optimism and my strong desire for the “most people are good people” belief to be true, I have to think that’s a huge “NO”. Show me the person who is a happy customer as a result of a spam message, and I’ll… well, just show me one. If you can actually drum one up, then we’ll talk recompense.
This is where it gets scary, because you know what? It doesn’t matter. People are reading, believing and clicking this stuff anyway! Some of them are new to the internet and haven’t yet developed the thick, jaded coat of misanthropic armor that inevitably grows with each passing pixel. Some of them are actually in the market for hot stock trading tips, or free virus software, or erectile dysfunction medication without a prescription, and maybe the promises in those subject lines are just too tempting to ignore. Some of them are just idiots, and that must be a lot of them, because have you actually read your spam lately? So much of it is auto-generated via scripts written by programmers who can’t even spell “english”, much less speak it, that only a card-carrying-fool would mistake their senders for legitimate businesses. Still, it must work. Somehow, somewhere, someone clicks, otherwise it would dwindle and die. If i’ve learned anything about online advertising from working in the industry it’s that advertisers want to see results, and they’re completely ready to pull their financial rug out from under any strategy that isn’t generating bucketloads of revenue after two days into the program.
So, by extension: spam is working. That’s seriously freakin scary, you guys. That’s your Halloween nightmare right there. Want to freak yourself out? Picture the person who just clicked on that email titled “CIAli$ mail for you!” (actual spam in my inbox right now). It’s not pretty. I’m very worried for the gene pool.
If Alfred Hitchcock were around to make a movie about the horrors of spam, I think this little gem from my inbox today would be the stark white text scrolling across a black screen, read by a grim announcer over the sound of tortured screams and chains dragging across cobblestone floors, in the opening scene. This auto-generated abomination, spawned from the misguided union of a random number generator and an english dictionary, would set the tone for the entire film:
- Now and then, a pork chop eagerly shares a shower with the tuba player living with a customer. A plaintiff completely seeks a polar bear. A movie theater shares a shower with a chestnut. An eggplant gives a pink slip to the tuba player. For example, a single-handledly impromptu bullfrog indicates that a class action suit beyond another burglar somewhat avoids contact with an ocean.
Furthermore, the crank case flies into a rage, and the grand piano sanitizes a paternal bullfrog. When another annoying steam engine ruminates, a tornado of a scythe ceases to exist. The hole puncher related to an inferiority complex borrows money from a molten hole puncher, but a grizzly bear graduates from the cosmopolitan tabloid. A fruit cake around another chestnut meditates, and a pork chop panics; however, a line dancer from the crank case finds subtle faults with an ocean. If a girl scout graduates from the pickup truck, then some mysterious cargo bay gets stinking drunk.
Good luck sleeping tonight. Mwah ha ha ha!