Spam Unites People Around The Globe In Odd Social Experiment

As the saying goes, when life hands you spam, hatch plans with your fellow spamees to create a new social network and otherwise engage in friendly penpal relationships. That might not be a saying yet, but it’s what happened when a spam email spiraled into the land of “reply all,” uniting annoyed people around the globe.

There’s nothing like mutual hatred to bond strangers together against a common cause, and in this case, that uniting factor was a piece of spam that multiplied through use of the “reply all” email function, reports the Wall Street Journal.

An automated reply from a business on the spammer’s list inadvertently went to everyone who had received that original spam, via a cloaked address that signed up recipients to a list serv, which kept spinning its net wider as others replied “take me off this list.” Of course, various forms of strong language popped up.

Hostility increased, at first, as recipients barked at each other to stop the cycle and cease replying. Of course, those messages also counted as replies. Then, someone in London made a suggestion to turn the whole mess into a social outing, writing: “Personally, I feel that after this many emails from you lot, we should all knock off together to the pub.”

And just like that, things turned more friendly. Someone else emailed the group with another idea — why not turn it into something useful?

“Rather than getting steamed up about all this, maybe it is worth considering setting up a LinkedIn group in which we can exchange crazy banter–or possibly even business opportunities if we can establish our common link,” he wrote.

Another spamee started a LinkedIn group the very next day, called “Unified by Spam–the Social Experiment.” It currently hosts more then 50 discussions, with strangers chatting about traveling to each other’s countries, making plans for drinks and other friendly conversations.

Who knew spam could warm the heart?

*Thanks for the tip, Stephen!

Changing the Subject: Spam Makes Friends Across Continents [Wall Street Journal]


Edit Your Comment

  1. CubeRat says:

    At first, I thought this was some ad campaign tied into the recent adds for the canned meat product, and was interested.

    Less interested in e-mail…..

  2. FashionablyDoomed says:

    This EXACT same thing happened when I worked in a call center for AT&T. Someone sent an email to every single employee in the company, and for the next three days we had to deal with over a thousand emails from people telling you not to reply.

    But instead of something good coming out of it, they just killed email access.

    • framitz says:

      The reply to all thing is all too common in business. I’ve seen it happen quite a few times.
      Once the CIO or other high level manager responds to all stating to ‘STOP replying to all or face consequences’, it stops pretty darn fast.

    • lockdog says:

      Any time I have to send an e-mail to stupid people I send it myself and BCC the intended recipients.

  3. Blueskylaw says:

    I guess when you can’t beat them, you admit defeat and play make believe friends.

  4. amuro98 says:

    Back in the day, if a spammer was stupid enough to send me spam with everyone’s email exposed, I’d reply-to-all with the details of who was responsible for the spam and how to send their own complaint.

    Most recipients simply forwarded my message to the indicated addresses. This caused a few rogue ISPs to email my admin to tell him to tell me to knock it off. Admin was a friend of mine so we both got a laugh over that…

  5. Tacojelly says:

    I thought this was a new social network specifically for socializing and kept marketing and advertising out…

    a man can dream though

  6. shthar says:

    now I’m afraid to check my email….

  7. TBGBoodler says:

    I’ve been part of a spontaneous online group like this for just about six years now, and have traveled near and far to hang out with my “imaginary friends.”

    I’ve also become somewhat pen pals with a woman on the other side of the world who shares my name and has an email address that is one letter different from mine. I probably forward two or three emails a week to her that are sent to me by mistake.

    People sometimes complain that Americans no longer know who lives next door to them, but we may know someone across the ocean instead.

  8. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    over thanksgiving weekend everyone who had ever signed up for a campground reservation at a state park through my state’s online system started getting tech support updates and everyone was hitting reply all to say ‘take me off this list’
    instead of people getting friendly about it, a couple of right wing pompous jerks started using the email list to promote their political agenda, which just increased the number of people yelling back and forth with reply all
    finally one of the IT guys got online at home to check his email after the holiday [but before the end of the weekend] and sent a quick “oh my god, i have to make this stop, please everyone stop replying to any of these emails” while he got someone to remote in and fix the error.
    it was funny at first but i developed a real loathing for the reply all feature pretty fast

  9. itsdotcom says:

    Wait, did the picture for this change? It was a can of SPAM when I looked earlier…

  10. teamplur says:

    I LITERALLY just did the same thing at work like 2 weeks ago. Someone in my MOS (Military occupational speciallty) emailed all the Sergeants in the same MOS looking for someone to take his place at an assignment. We started talking about random stuff, and we got plenty of “stop hitting reply all, take me off this list” emails so I took the initiative to set up a Facebook page for us. As a community, Supply MOS Sergeants didn’t have a good place to talk about issues that affect us. It’s still small but it’s growing.
    I think it’s pretty funny to see this article so soon after