Break the chain

When I was regularly singing with a chamber music choir, my bio in the program used to include the line “so old her first recording was on vinyl.”  And it’s true!

I’m also so old that I remember my first chain letter, when they were written out by (nervous pre-adolescent) hand, addressed and stamped and everything.  Even then, it was something I was compelled to do, for fear of not having three wishes come true and having my new ten-speed bike stolen (or whatever other wreck and ruin the letter threatened).

And then, like another two or three per cent of the population, I grew up and never forwarded that kind of crap again.

AND THEN the internet happened.

… hand-written chain letters became e-mail forwards (see’s Inboxer Rebellion for the mother list of these things).

… e-mail scams morphed into bogus social media campaigns (Facebook is rife with this garbage; I police my own friends list with diminshing good will).

… and of course there’s money in it (read Daylan Pearce’s excellent explanation of Facebook “like” scams).

… even blogging is not immune, with the proliferation of “best blogger” awards/memes/linkfests (I don’t participate personally and am not going to name specific awards; the gist is that you get nominated, answer some questions, nominate a bunch of others, and so and and so on, as the shampoo commercial says.  Some folks play along, others, like me, just say no.).

Going back to my policing comment for a moment: it’s really hard to tactfully explain to someone that they’ve forwarded an illegitimate request for help.  Firstly, because I think we really ought to encourage more kindness, decency and concern and telling someone they’ve been duped might ratchet the cynicism up into “well screw it then” territory.  Secondly, you’re sort of telling someone that they’re … how to put this … unsavvy.  No one likes to hear this; it’s less fun than you’d think to point it out.

Your best course of action, if you have to be polite about it — and you do have to be polite if it’s, say, your boss — is to spend ten seconds sleuthing on or other “debunking” sites, and forward the link with a sheepish kind of “Oh, it looks like this is the latest one going around!”

Your most direct — and, I think, funniest — course of action is to break the chain.

Here’s how:

  1. Download a copy of David Seah’s printable certificate for breaking chain letters.
  2. Distribute.

You can send the certificate via email (perfect if that’s where you’re getting hit hardest by these kinds of senseless pixel-wasters), you can post it on your Facebook profile, you can even print it out and mail it (this is really my favourite option because the physical manipulation required to interact with the message might drive it home, plus for the cost of a stamp you can make your point while protecting your anonymity).

The brilliant copy from the Certificate of Chain Letter Nullification:

There are times when the forces of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt conspire to coerce Good People to aid the propogation of Certain Letters of Ambiguous Benefit or Misfortune. Such Letters are conceived to Frighten people into serving the Ego of a Master Jerk. We can not, as free men and women, allow such Threats to bound our Happiness.

By signing and dating this certificate, you declare that you are a Creator of Positive Energies. Together, we break the Tyranny of the Chain. We declare that we are defined by our Actions, not our Fears.

Also by David Seah: genius productivity tools and the Re-Gift Receipt (the perfect addition to all the crappy presents you’re going to buy for near-strangers this holiday season).


  1. Thanks for the mention! I wish I’d know about this when I was getting inundated with awards. Of course since that post I haven’t been given an award for anything. So, Yay?

  2. hi! appreciate the link back. two schools of thought about blog awards with both contentions not without basis can only be healthy. cheers!

    • Thank you for having a perspective worth sharing! I think if people want to participate in blog awards — if they have the time and can follow the “rules” without feeling unduly pressured — that’s fine. It’s nice to be appreciated. I’m a bit of an absolutist, though, and would feel like a heel if I accepted one but not all, so decided early on to just say “thanks” and take a pass.

  3. Benedicte says:

    I’m a relative newbie to blogging, and was just sent one of the awards you refer to… I do understand your position but I suppose for me there were a couple of differences. The biggest one is the lack of threats, and no pressure to pass it on. For me it was a really interesting exercise that created a different blog post, and has led to some really wonderful discoveries of new blogs through the ones suggested by authors I’d already found. Your being one of my favourite :)
    I do remember chain letters and hate them – the certificate is wonderful. But when I “nominated” blogs I thought lovely, I was more than happy for it to end there.

  4. Ah, 1980’s honor choirs and snail mail chain letters . . .brings back memories! I continue to feel conflicted about the whole blog award thing . . . I go back and forth, but have found some of my favorite blogs through others’ award posts, so finally decided to participate as I have time but loosely interpreting the “rules” (without any fear of retribution or being smacked down on the 7th day) — nor do I expect any blog I pay it forward to, because I sincerely enjoy it (e.g. are you familiar with that delightful Joy and Woe blog?!) and think others may, as well, who have not yet crossed paths with it in this seemingly infinite blogosphere. You know, I think those chain letters also lived side-by-side with the pen pal booklets that were passed around (I think that goes back to late elementary/early middle school days for me!) ~ Kat

    • Funny you should mention pen pals, because it was right around that age that I was BIG into them. I remember writing to a girl who lived in Melton Mowbray. Can’t for the life of me recall her name but I’ll never forget the town!

  5. I love this certificate! I’m a little superstitious, but I must say I don’t ever do the chain letter thing. Haven’t died yet.

  6. I understand your perspective. I actually mentioned chain letters in my recent somewhat reluctant and somewhat appreciative blog award acceptance. I listed you in my list of blogs to nominate next. I know you don’t accept. That’s cool. No curses, just good luck:) Please don’t send me a certificate:)

  7. This is brilliant!

  8. LOVE it! I personally never enjoyed getting them and felt really guilty tagging other people. If someone lets me know via my blog or FB page (or mass tagging on Twitter *facepalm*) i just say thanks, but i don’t do anything about it:) Probably horrible manners. But it really is just chain mail! I’m surprised there aren’t threats attached,”bestow this award to 30 bloggers in the next 30 minutes or your family will DIE”.

    • Not horrible manners at all! They really seem like an awful lot of work. It’s like, “Hey! I noticed that you are really a whiz with a sewing machine! I would like to give you $500!*”

      * that you can spend on purchasing fabric for a ballgown for me, I’ll need it by the weekend, you are welcome to intuit my correct size, mkaythanksbye.

  9. Thank you for providing permission (and an apt analogy as to why it is okay) drop the ball on these awards. Should anyone want to give me an Oscar, a Tony, or 50 dollars I will accept. But not if it requires work or technical expertise or the requirement that I dump work on someone else.

    • You’re welcome! I was so relieved when I found out that I’m not the only one who finds these awards, how to put this, less meaningful than intended.

      And man, could I ever go for $50 right about now …


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