CNET : Internet : Regional Dispatches
Charge of the e-junk brigade
By Jay Chong
January 10, 2000

It is unnerving, this habit of my relatives, to send unsolicited jokes and virus alerts via electronic mail. It is considerate of them to want to cheer me up after a stressful day at work or after an even more stressed-out day minding two toddlers. But this habit is getting to be a very annoying practice.

When email was first introduced here in Malaysia in the early 1990s, it was as alien as Jarjarbinks are on that celluloid galaxy far, far away. Most of us were absorbed merely with just getting the email addresses of so-and-so who lived or worked in the U.S., Britain, Japan, even Timbuctoo. We simply thought that only those who lived at least 7,000 miles away deserved emails. So it was only natural that I joined the league of awed pseudo geeks who did not even use the electronic communication facility in the first few months of my e-life.

After all, I knew no one who lived that far away...

In fact, my email address was just to fill the white space on my business card. Sure enough, no one wrote and my in-box remained as virginal as the day I downloaded the email client program.

It finally dawned on me one sunny morning that the World Wide Web was not going to come to me. I had to go to it. "So bodoh, you ee-diot!" my id spoke to my ego. In order for others to keep in touch, we should be the initiators and make the first move.

So after a few furious long distance and local phone calls to secure several email addresses (the irony of the situation did hit me), I finally sat down with the task to compose several beautifully worded e-letters. And promptly hit a blank wall, suffering a severe case of emailer's block.

It took several weeks before my email skills grew from basic "hellos" and "goodbyes" to meatier stuff. But the recipients at the other end were still not forthcoming. The in-box remained quiet--no replies, electronic or otherwise. What I received in my mailbox instead was all sorts of bizarre messages from strangers whom I have never met on the Net or in real life.

Later, I learned all about spam, a.k.a. unsolicited commercial emails. The difference between junk snail mail and junk email is this: if you don't want your junk mail, you just throw it away. Junk email, on the other hand, can clog the recipient's inbox, costing him time and productivity to get rid of it.

Needless to say, I've learned that you probably feel flattered for about the first five minutes after someone asks for your email address, then spend the rest of your life regretting that you even told anyone!

Dispatch from Malaysia

Here's a nation that has built a first-world infrastructure. But can the country truly lead its people down the Yellow Brick Road to the smart city of tomorrow? Our Dispatch from Malaysia taps into the collective mindshare.

Jay Chong, a mother of two, hopes her children will benefit from the exposure they are getting through the Internet. Her ultimate dream is to retire when her kids are tech-savvy enough to bring back moolah from their forays online.


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