27
Apr
11

political familial emails

Reader B.C. writes:

You wrote about what to do if a coworker sends you a political email you’re not interested in, but what about if it’s a family member? My uncle keeps sending out these awful, spammy fowards about ridiculous conspiracies (usually political ones) that have been disproven on Snopes.com so many times it’s not even funny. But he’s still my uncle, and I don’t want to be disrespectful. What should I do?

Dear B.C.:

Just as I said for political emails from coworkers, my advice continues in this case to be: delete delete delete. If you don’t read it, it can’t bother you. If he sends exclusively spam, you can even create a rule (in most email services) to send his stuff directly to your spam folder or even to delete it immediately so you never even have to know it arrived in your inbox.

pillow fight

If only all political familial debates were solved this way. Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This will work as long as he doesn’t ask you about it. Most people who send out spammy emails don’t have time to ask you about it, though; they’re too busy looking for the next political conspiracy to be able to discuss what they actually sent out.

You can, if you want to, think of it this way: He believes so fervently in these conspiracies, and is so excited by them, that he wants to send them out to everyone he loves, so they can share in the warmth he feels. Clearly his trust in your beliefs is misplaced, but at least you know he loves you.

On the other hand, he could be sending them out because he believes they are so true that they will convert anyone. In which case, his belief in the power of conspiracy emails is misplaced, and there’s nothing you can do. As we all know, the pendulum of belief swings both ways — as much as he can’t convince you to believe his tripe, you can’t convince him not to believe it.

This is because belief in conspiracy has nothing to do with fact. Most beliefs have very little to do with fact, actually; they’re based in opinion and interpretation, but not fact. When you admit that this is the case, you become a lot less likely to insist that everyone share your beliefs. And you may even be willing to shift your beliefs when new facts are presented, if you ever get around to listening to them. But this is generally not true of beliefs you hold most dear and are most willing to fight for. In fact, I would argue that the more fervently you believe something, the less likely you are to allow facts to interfere, even if they directly refute your belief. And I would argue that this is true of everyone, not just your wackadoo uncle, and you’re probably guilty of it, too.

I’ll bet he talks about this stuff at the dinner table, or at family reunions. In which case you and your family probably exercise the age-old trick of changing the subject. Or you all chime in and have wonderful fights, including throwing mashed potatoes at each other. This is what makes families fun. But I doubt the latter scenario. Generally, in order to keep things civil, most people opt just to change the subject, and I have absolutely no problem with this.

If you really want to start a fight with him, you can send him the Snopes articles that disprove his chain emails. I’m going to guess he hasn’t discovered the BCC function, and therefore you can even reply to all of his friends and family members who have been subjected to his spam. This will not accomplish anything beyond probably embarrassing him and/or making your ego feel better, though. He’s not going to be convinced, I assure you, and he’s going to be mad you’re arguing with his “truth”. If you’re not the kind of family that throws mashed potatoes at each other “all in good fun” during an argument, then this is not the route I would suggest.

You could also ask him to quit sending them to you, which, once again, could make things awkward. I’d say you should be nice about it, and tell him you don’t read them, rather than telling him that you hate his political views and think he’s crazy. No matter what you say, though, he will believe that the truth of these emails is what’s bothering you, and he is not very likely to recognize that his “truth” is really annoying to everyone else, which means he may send them to you even more fervently. (Backfire!)

But I think you’re probably better off just realizing your uncle’s nutjob opinions aren’t going away with your wonderful reason and logic, and you’re better off just ignoring his spam. Delete. Delete. Delete.

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1 Response to “political familial emails”


  1. 1 Melisa
    April 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

    I’ve actually asked several family members to stop sending me the very religious or the very political and bordering on racist emails. Yes, it took awhile for them to come around to send me regular emails again, but we all respect each others’ ability to have differeing opinions and so just make a rule not to discuss it. In the end, I am much happier not getting the emails and we still have a good relationship. It can be done!


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