I'm on the email list of a relative who's senior. Usually, R sends along jokes and such to numerous friends and family on the list, including yours truly. And that's fine and good! I sometimes reply about how funny the funny ones are. I ignore some for a variety of reasons.
Today, though, for the second time in as many weeks, R sent me one of those really irritating urban legend sorts of things, this one the infamous "ship high in transit" endlessly circulating email fake etymology. Now I enjoy a fake etymology as much as the next person, but not so much when it pretends to be real and I know it's not, and it's spread over the internet indiscriminately.
I checked Snopes and the OED, and then performed my evil act: I hit reply to all, wrote a short note about the real etymology, linked the Snopes page, and then hit send.
I immediately regretted doing so.
Last time, R sent the less famous urban legend about how car-jackers are using flyers put on rear windows to fool innocent people into getting out of their cars, at which point the car-jackers do the car-jack thing. (Here's the Snopes page.)
Anyway, last time, I sent a Snopes link and said the thing was an urban legend, and hit reply all.
Unfortunately, that hurt R's feelings. She said I made her look bad. I answered that worrying people unnecessarily about a crime that doesn't happen that way was a mistake. She argued that even if it had never happened, it MIGHT, and she was doing a good thing warning her friends. I countered with the argument that putting out a ton of flyers would be a stupid waste of effort for car-jackers, and especially since in most parking lots we approach our cars from the back, we see and remove any flyers on the rear window anyways. I insisted (stupidly, no doubt) that critically thinking about things before passing them along in mass emails might be a good strategy.
R was unhappy at me. And R is going to be more unhappy at me for doing it again.
My problem is, I just can't keep my mouth (or keyboard) shut sometimes, and I'm tired of people asserting "truths" without even an instant of critical thinking, and I'm more tired of a lifetime of R communicating BS as if it's absolute truth. All my life, I was just supposed to shut up and listen uncritically to anything R said, and nod agreement.
Now, just so you know, R is way smart, smarter than I am by far (okay, so not difficult). She just chooses to use her smarts very selectively sometimes.
And really, R is also a relative, and I shouldn't alienate or hurt her just for the sake of alienating or hurting her.
R is scared in the way that some people are when they feel vulnerable, often beyond comprehension and logic (except not of things I think she should be cautious about, naturally). So really, attacking R is beyond the pale of what I should do, and yet...
How do you balance these issues? How do you try to help someone more realistically understand risk and use critical thinking? Or do you just not bother?
In other news: My colleagues spent the day telling me how wonderful my meeting notes were, and how much they enjoyed them.