Neil Offen: What it means to go viral

Feb. 10, 2013 @ 08:45 PM

I got a virus the other day. I got it even though I take a baby aspirin every morning, exercise regularly and only eat foods that are harvested by organically grown people.
I didn’t cough or shiver or sneeze when I got the virus, which was good because I had already used my monthly supply of tissues. Instead, I just kept sending out emails.
The virus was to my computer. I developed the symptoms when I received an email that had, as its subject line, the words “Get away from here. Quick.”
Whatever you do, it said, don’t open this email.
So of course I opened it.
It was from someone I had never heard of but who seemed to know me very well even though he misspelled my first name and addressed me as “Dear Occupant.”
In the first paragraph that I read, there were some little hints that reading this email might be dangerous, such as the usage of the word “dangerous.” But, I noted, it wasn’t in capital letters.
There were also the words, “Radioactive!” “Beware!” and something that sounded like it was a German curse word or a life-threatening disease. It may have been a life-threatening German disease.
So of course I continued reading.
The email writer suggested that I scroll all the way down to the bottom of the email where there was a link that, if I clicked on it, would bring me untold wealth or let me see the YouTube video of a very cute kitten singing karaoke. 
I like karaoke.
So of course I scrolled down.
The link had a series of letters and numbers and ended in the suffix dotverboten. I assumed it was my dentist’s website.
So I clicked on the link.
I waited a long time for something to happen with the link. Nothing happened except my desk chair started to vibrate, I couldn’t find my wallet and I started thinking that I might like to watch “The Biggest Loser” on TV. Also, my computer began sending the same exact email to everyone I knew, including people I no longer knew and my third-grade teacher, Miss Bave.
Everyone was glad to hear from me, except for Miss Bave and those who actually read the email, scrolled down to the link, opened the link and then remembered why they no longer thought to keep in touch with me.
I heard back from several of them. They wanted to know why I had intentionally contacted them with a piece of spam and why didn’t I warn them with the word dangerous in capital letters?
So of course I responded that I had a virus and asked them if they could please send tissues. 
Neil Offen can be reached at noffen@heraldsun.com or by telephone at 919-419-6646.