The other day, I saw a TedTalk about spam. At least, I think it was a TedTalk. It was on YouTube so it could have just been a random YouTube video. Regardless, it was a talk about spam. Specifically, the kind of spam where someone informs you they have to transfer a huge sum of money and need your help to do so. The fellow giving the talk described how instead of deleting the email outright, he engaged with the spammer, soliciting some funny responses from his would-be thief.
Yesterday, after posting the cover of Lauren Buekes Zoo City, I recalled that a few of the characters in that book were exactly those kind of spammers. It got me thinking about how spam has changed over the years.
In the 90s, spam was fairly innocent. I remember getting a lot of chain letters. While I can’t ever remember getting a chain letter in real life (yes, that’s where they started), they were immediately recognized for the byte-wasters they are.
The oughts brought us all those foreign princes with lots of money to get rid of. This is also when internet hoaxes and urban legends blossomed like fungi on overripe fruit. This decade also birthed Rickrolling. (Rick Astley’s video has been watched over 196 million times.)
This decade seems to be infiltrated by the fake pharmaceutical companies and you can’t wade onto any social media platform without getting a little GIF spam smeared on your pant cuffs.
Mind you, through it all, two types of spam are perennially popular: unwanted products/services and porn. Those have been a constant and, I imagine, will be with us a million years from now when the last computer circuit disintegrates into dust.
But let’s be honest. All forms of spam will never go away.
Yesterday afternoon, I got a nice letter from Dr Park Lee Sung, a Korean, Chief Medical Director attach to His Highness Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, The Emir of Kuwait, who said, and I quote:
During one of his [His Highness] oil businesses with the West, which I helped him to coordinate, I made the sum of $10,500,000.00 and deposited it with an escrow account with Emirates Bank Dubai. I am contacting you now to help me receive the funds in our country for investment, where you will take 45%, while 50% for myself and 5% to any charity of your choice. But you have to keep this project secret and private to yourself, and please get back to me with your details, so that I will inform you what to do next. Waiting to hear from you, email@example.com Thanks, you need to act very fast to this, i have little time to handle this [sic]
Until next time, stay spam-free.