Opinion: Friendly or foolish

“Hello, Terry. I know it has been a while since we’ve talked; but, I’m surprised that you’ve not responded to my emails.” So went a message among the many stuffing my inbox. The problem is that I couldn’t remember a previous message – or for that matter, recall the person who sent it to me. Happily, my digital recall is increasingly more reliable than my physiological one. With a few quick keystrokes, I was able to search the last decade or so of messages, contacts and appointments. There was no indication of any previous interaction.

Yet in a connected world, we meet so many people that I responded to the note begging forgiveness for my poor memory and asking to be reacquainted with the sender. Much as could be expected, I suppose, the exchange only led to a confirmation that the message was a cold call. In fact, there had not been an antecedent nor had I ever interacted with the supposed long-lost-friend who’d sent it.

The email originated from a far-off business, one can assume, paid to arrange meetings for a payroll service aspiring to pitch their wares. Its familiar tone and intentionally deceptive admonishment effectively elicited a response. While one might be impressed by the success of the ruse, it led to my blocking any future solicitations from both the sender and the company hoping to connect. Perhaps the scorn originated in embarrassment for being susceptible but the exchange seemed to push past puffery into downright dishonesty.

As the World Wide Web has made our personal lives increasingly public, marketers and charlatans have ever more effective tools to enter our heads – and our wallets. In the modern age, what is the line between friendly and foolish? Thanks to the internet, when the barbarians arrive they be calling us by our first names.

Terry Anker

Terry Anker is an associate editor of Current Publishing LLC. You may e-mail him at terry@youarecurrent.com

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