What might spam say about us?

Published 12:35 am Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Checking the “junk” email folder, I see another 30 or so messages arrived overnight. It is an adventure to read the subject lines and learn the wonders available if I‘ll click on a link.

All of this junk has another name, spam. (For those of us who grew up in the 1950s, this brings to mind meat that often showed up in sandwiches).

I discovered the first known spam (the email not the meat), advertising a product presentation, came from Gary Thuerk in 1978. Well didn’t he open a can of worms (no pun intended since worm also has a different meaning these days).

As I scrolled through the 119 messages in my junk folder (I haven’t emptied it in two days), an interesting thought popped into my head. Suppose in the distant future, an archeologist unearths this computer. And, suppose the only thing left in its memory is the junk folder.

And suppose again that from this, that archeologist puts together a profile of our society based on the user of this computer. Whom would I be, whom would we be, if judged by spam. Well, here goes.

The owner of the computer (ancient me) obviously had a home or wished to buy one because there are bunches of emails about financing or refinancing a house. Oh, and she enjoyed television judging by the number of messages offering savings on Internet and cable packages.

Wait — good news — she had good credit scores and got an approval for a $9,200 loan. That might not buy a house, but it surely purchased a couple of hours of cable television viewing.

As the archeologist continues, he or she discovers another piece of the puzzle. This woman from the past was looking for love in all the Internet places because there are about 10 emails for dating sites.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly what kind of man she sought based on the messages. Was she looking to Christian mingle, date an Asian, a Russian or was she comfortable with any old Match.com guy? There was even one message that invited her (again ancient me) to join in 21 meditations on finding love.

Apparently, the stress of trying to find a mate took a toll on her health because the folder is full of pharmaceutical products. There was medicine for depression, obviously caused by not meditating enough on finding love. There was a cue for ADHD, so she needed more focus on finding love. Oh and one message offered help for post partum depression. (that one confused everything).

(I’m not going to say anything about the message with the words “kinky” and “sexy” in the subject line.)

Maybe her skin, body shape and hair were the problems when it came to finding her perfect match because there were ads for acne products, anti-wrinkle creams, weight loss pills, and something called WEN hair care.

Putting together a profile would be difficult because the messages go off in all directions. There is one for help with Medicare issues and one for drug rehabilitation. Did she get hooked on weight loss pills in her old age?

Maybe she escaped on one of the four or five Alaskan cruises she had an invitation to take, maybe with a Christian, Asian boyfriend. No wait, she had car problems judging from the messages with oil change coupons attached.

As for what the woman of this unearthed computer did for a living. The spam tells the story. She was an auto technician paid to take surveys while pursuing an online degree in finance.

And then, the story comes full circle with messages about retirement accounts, IRAs and annuities. In the end, there are messages about burial insurance and cemetery plots.

Yep, it’s an adventure when I visit that junk/spam folder. However, so a future archeologist does not misunderstand the humans living in 2014, I might need to click delete and clean that sucker out every morning.