Meme delivery

My recent lunch-hour rant on angelspam got me pondering. Why is it that I find it impossible to take chain mail seriously, even if I might otherwise be interested in the topic at hand (in the case of political calls to action)?

I believe that we have filters designed to filter out noise in our collection of memes. After all, I don’t want every possible concept or thought pattern I encounter to weave its way into my mental map, lest I become wholly a product of my environment, devoid of self-direction.

A memetic filter I find valuable is that of source effort. If very little effort is expended delivering a message to me, then how can I be expected to expend energy receiving it? Messages broadcast to me via TV commercials and magazine ads must overcome great barriers to entry my mind, but a handwritten note left on my desk will receive immediate attention.

Side effects of this filtering, though, include a high barrier of entry for messages that were not authored for me, but merely routed via the forward button. A short note meant for me can profoundly affect this equation, of course [e.g. a recent email from my mother where she asked how one of those “mind reading” tricks worked, rather than simply passing on the curiosity].

I’m not alone. I’ve heard that the offices of senators, for example, filter messages sent by constituents by media. A handwritten note sent via FedEx is said to have a far greater chance of being read and sent up the chain than a copied fax or signed petition. If you received thousands of opinions daily, how seriously would you take the ones that motivated their authors only enough to click a button or two? Yeah, me too.

I posted this in May 2003 during week 1524.

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