What Is an Example of Spam Email?

Why Does Junk Mail Exist, and Why Is It Bad?

Andrew St. Clair / andrewstclair.com

Have you ever wondered what spam is exactly, and why there is so much of it in your email inbox?

Ah, spam: either you have already encountered it, or you do not use email. If the latter is the case, spam is a good reason not starting using email; it is probably also the only reason.

What Is Spam?

An exact definition of "spam", should it exist, would probably not be agreed upon by many. This is because and why any definition of junk email includes a subjective part—"I recognize spam when I see it!".

  • Email messages you did not ask for that were
  • sent in bulk
  • from senders you do not know

are suspicious of being spam.

What Is Not Spam?

Newsletters you did sign up for, an email from a college friend and messages from people trying to contact you personally are, by and large, not spam.

  • A newsletter somebody signed you up for to annoy you is not spam but a different kind of email abuse.
  • An email sent to you in bulk by an unknown sender that you do in fact welcome and find useful may not be spam either.

Every email you asked for is not spam but not every email you did not ask for is spam.

For practical means, there is no point in sophistic examination of all the reasons that can, could or must not justify the junk status of any email (if you enjoy the sophistic exercise, do go ahead, of course).

I used to include an example of a junk email message in this space but I shall point to your Inbox or, if you are graced with a potent spam filter, Spam folder instead.

Why Does Spam Exist?

The reason spam is thriving is none other than it works (for it to be a pyramid scheme spam has been around for too long). People do buy products advertised in junk email.

You, of course, like the vast majority of spam recipients do not. (That is unlike you do want junk email to continue.)

How, if just about nobody responds positively to junk mail, can it still be profitable to send and produce?

  • Spam works because it is so very cheap to send.

It takes only a minuscule proportion of the junk emails sent out to generate revenue for a spam-spouting business to cross the break-even point.

Using means ranging from spam-friendly ISPs to ordinary people's computers turned spam-machines, spammers can send their junk inexpensively. At the same time, the risk of getting caught is substantial and involves dear costs—apparently not enough to offset the profitability of sending spam.

Why Is Spam Bad?

Spam is more than a nuisance. It does cause monetary damage.

For the most part, this

  • damage is borne by the recipient.

Spam costs time, money and resources to process, filter or manually delete. This makes email less attractive as a medium.

Fortunately, spam has by far not managed to ruin email and its utility to near-everybody, and neither will it.