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  • Genine Babakian

When It Comes to Chain Mail, I Am the Weakest Link

To all those friends who have sent me chain letters requesting recipes, poetry, favorite pet photos, thank you. And please know this: in the current, pandemic-fueled revival of this near forgotten past-time, I am the weakest link. The place where your well-meaning missives go to die.

Don’t get me wrong. I am honored to be included among the ten (or 20) friends you wish to send FILL IN THE BLANK – cheer, culinary inspiration, literary baubles. But I am not going to add my name and send a version of this letter to ten people. I wish I could say it is because I am too busy, but that would be a lie.

Need I apologize for my curmudgeonly approach? Perhaps. But at least now, with thanks to @AlysonBKrueger for her coronavirus chain letter piece in the New York Times, I know there are like-minded folks out there. While this generation of correspondence is far less threatening than the versions I received in high school – the ones promising unspoken ills if I broke the chain – their tone enforces a “you’re either with us, or against us” message.

Friends, please don’t take this personally. It’s not you, it’s the chain letter. In fact, I’d be delighted to send you a recipe. Just email me. A line or two in greeting will suffice. Enough for me to know that this message is going only to me, and not to 9 anonymous other people. I’ll be happy to send you whatever you like. And if you feel like sharing that recipe with ten of your closest friends, I’m fine with that, too.

Ditto for poetry and inspirational quotes. If the resurgence of chain letters is – in the age of social distancing – a way to build community, there is no stronger connection for me than one-on-on correspondence. As for adorable pet pictures, my dog is already the most photographed member of the family. He's got enough on his plate these days, what with the ten times a day we take him out for a walk.

I take a similar position for the social media equivalents of the chain letter. I know it’s all in good fun. A way to pass the time while we, the fortunate ones, are cooped up at home. But if I could find my high school graduation picture to post in honor of the Class of 2020, would that really pay tribute to the seniors who are now missing out on all the rituals that past graduates have enjoyed? My heart aches for this class, and I would love to ease their burden. But a little voice inside of me wonders whether flooding the internet with old high school graduation pictures is the way to do it.

Please remember, friends. I hold you AND your correspondence in the highest esteem. Just not your chain letters.

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