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STELLPFLUG COLUMN: Column still stings just like misinformation
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STELLPFLUG COLUMN: Column still stings just like misinformation

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Five hundred columns ago, my opinion piece to the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen was penned in hopes of creating awareness and ending once and for all those insidious pass-along emails.

I was frustrated, confused and angry over all the misinformation being wantonly sent around. Little did I know it was just the beginning.

Their arrival in my inbox was putting me over the edge. You know the ones. Long before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest, there were group emails. Emails that everyone thought were informative or funny or necessary to share.

Once people caught on to these opportunities to save a stamp and reach the masses, and once they learned how to click “all” and “forward,” there were millions of emails circulating the Ethernet, sometimes for years. Floating out there in the clouds before we called it the cloud, were bits of information that were a combination of half-truths, fabrications, and often very damaging falsehoods. It was gossip at the very least, lies at their worst.

Yet we accepted it as truth. Why else would our father-in-law, our brother, our co-workers, and our friends, send these on? We felt they must contain something of value. Why else would people dear to us feel such a need to send us this “information”? Nope. No value.

Cyberspace was new, and quite a mystery, and there was not Snopes, Fact Check or other sources readily available for us to verify information. It certainly served the purpose to quickly and efficiently pass along mis-information to the uniformed, the trusting and the gullible.

I was new to all that email propaganda, because I used my account for my business communications in those days. I used it to connect to family when I couldn’t reach them by phone. The speed was impressive and it did save on postage and playing phone tag.

In that venting article I wanted to once and for all expose all the crazy email pass arounds. I wanted to out the people who send the most ridiculous and far-fetched conspiracy theories to everyone they know. The more outrageous and the more fabrication, the more the emails got moved in and out of that crazy, wonderful interweb.

Once Facebook, Twitter and all the rest came along, there were even more venues to spread the misinformation. I thought it was a passing fad, and soon would be of no real significance. Boy, was I wrong. That train left the station. That horse is out of the barn. That cat is out of the bag. Whatever other cliché you can think of, add it now. The options to spread the slander and distortion are ubiquitous.

Many of us took it upon ourselves to remind family and friends, and old college roommates that as much as we like to hear from them, we’d rather have a personal message with news of family, health and travel. We didn’t need that message from a supposed ex-general who is revealing some truth about a long since dead president. We were omitted from their lists.

I didn’t mind the “Maxine” cartoons, the beautiful photos from Germany or the Netherlands or even the favorite recipes. What I minded was the indiscriminate clicking and sharing and posting of untruths and scare tactics.

I called out my brother on one of the more ridiculous missives. He shared an article that was hurtful and degrading to the person it was about. I went so far as to contact the Washington Post. I asked if the author of the article worked there. They told me that he doesn’t and he never did. That should have been the end of it, but the editor I spoke with said that these specific rants had made the rounds several times, even though they were untrue and The Washington Post never printed them.

The emails, postings and spreading of lies continues. I miss real objective news of things that matter. I miss my brother’s golf jokes, and I did appreciate the Easter cards with a blessing. I miss his emails with kittens and cartoons, jokes and news of the family. My brother is gone now. I miss him.

Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at kaystellpflug@gmail.com.

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