Email Lives Forever and Ever

This photo is for Laura Bickle. She knows why.

In the movies, there’s often a motif of someone seeking a particular document with important information. The bad people try to destroy it and the good people make lots of copies and put them in safety-deposit boxes or mail them to reporters. Usually the bad people manage to destroy most of the copies, but one will triumphantly make it through, to damn them before the world of public opinion.

This can never work in the world of email.

When I first became involved with some of my author loops, I was very surprised to encounter the “rule” that you could not forward emails off-loop. The thing is, that kind of thing is a courtesy and absolutely unenforceable. At the company I work for, all emails are considered company property and are archived for years. Nobody would ever say an email can’t be forwarded. Because, of course, it easily can. There is really only one true rule:

Never put anything in an email you wouldn’t want brought before the ethics committee or read in public. Or before a judge.

Last week saw a new author blow up over reviews, only with a new spin. A reviewer on Amazon gave a book a scathing review. Yes, it was harsh, mocking the book for being what the reviewer saw as a Twilight rip-off. The author did not melt down publicly over this. However, the reviewer received a forwarded email allegedly written by this author and sent to a group of friends or readers. The email asked them to go to Amazon and rate the review as unhelpful, so it would drop off the screen.

Brouhaha ensued.

I don’t know if anyone established if this was true, but the principle applies in general. An important lesson I’ve learned from my day job about being a writer. Assume that anything you put in an email, even to trusted friends or a “private” loop, can be made public.

And if it’s juicy, it probably will.

10 Replies to “Email Lives Forever and Ever”

  1. Ooooh! I love the crow. Thank you so much. *hugs*

    Yeah. There is a certain contagiousness to things on the internet and a certain permanence, at the same time. It can be like a fatal case of the common cold.

  2. A long time ago (before email, even) my mother told me nobody should ever write down anything they didn’t want the world to know. Extreme? Maybe, but she had a point. Once something is written, whether on paper or in pixels, there’s the possibility it will go public.

    Hmm. This could be the origin of my deep-seated reluctance to keep a diary. And why I took up writing fiction instead.

    1. Your mother was a wise woman, Linda. I’ve never kept a diary either, though I’ve written plenty of personal nonfiction. It’s always good to make sure you really want something out in the world.

Leave a Reply to December Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.