RULE # 216: Don’t use bcc
This seems like an unusual rule to share with my children, but this is for me an issue which is part a pet peeve, part ethical guideline and part social standard. The way I see it the use, or non-use of the blind cc is a definition of social character the same way not wearing a suit for an interview or using the “f-word” as a noun, a verb and an adjective is for people. The use defines us, and not in a good way.
First a brief history of the carbon copy in case you are reading this and the whole ability to do bcc has been replaced by the latest 22 yr Internet genius ( hopefully named Stephen Hill) invention which renders the bcc moot much the same way as the xerox machine killed carbon paper.
A man named Ralph Wedgewood, in 1806, came up the idea of a piece of paper when written over or struck with the newly invented typewriter would produce an image. It went relatively unnoticed and underused until a young entrepreneur named Lebbeus H. Rogers saw it being used by the Associated Press to copy stories they were reporting on in the field. He saw how it worked and had a vision that it would sell to virtually every office in America, and his risk taking took it to become a staple in virtually every business up though the late 1970’s.
I tell you this history for two reason, first to give you an understanding of what a carbon copy is ( a copy made with the use of carbon paper), but secondly and vastly more importantly is the message that the ability to use an idea or invention is the much more valuable than the invention itself. As you find your way through business and life the ability to build on the ideas of others is the key to success. Very little is really accomplished without the vision of application of ideas of others.
Back to the story…I’m not really certain how the carbon copy usage got shorten to a notation at the bottom of letters as ‘cc’, but I am fairly certain that it was a lawyer who came up with the idea of adding a “b” to the”cc” for blind carbon copy. I’m fairly certain because who else other than a lawyer would come up with sending correspondence intended and implied as confidential to a third party with the implied, “shh don’t let the sap know I’m sending this to you”, notation.
This may imply that I have dislike or disrespect for lawyers, and for the most part this would be untrue. What I have observed is that some of the most outstanding people I know are lawyers, and some of the sleaziest people I know are lawyers- it is a profession which can inspire the best or worse in the people whom choose it. In this case I believe it was one of the sleazy type that added that first bcc to the first letter.
Many things in life are exclusionary; clubs, universities,and religions are just among a few. Yet few would consider it wrong for a university to set a SAT/ACT score requirement, the exclusion is part of a sorting process that establishes what the University is to the outside world. Its when exclusionary acts become cruel or socially bias that exclusionary act become evil.
You will undoubtly have a roommate in college whom at times you will love and at time you will hate. Living with someone or next to someone is never a situation where it is all good or all bad. Many times you will go with that roommate to a movie or party and share the experience with them, but occassionally you will want to go without them. Not because there is a problem, just because you need space and want to be with other people. In those situations the healthy thing to do is to say to them you’d like to do this without them. Of course if you invite everyone else on the dorm floor but them, or have a party right down the hall the exclusion will become hurtful, but if handled directly and gracefully they will understand.
The bcc is like telling your roommate you are going to the library, then sneaking down the hall to a friends party. It sort of says that not only do you not want them to be included but you think so little of them that you don’t think they would be able to handle the truth. You will find in life that both types of lies, lies of fact and lies of omission, cause hurt. Truth is often hard to deal with when presented in your life, but never causes the damage that lies cause.
The receiver of the letter or email from you thinks that all correspondence is confidential regardless if marketed that way, there is just an expection of trust. I’ve seen incidents in business where the bcc was used on correspondence that is marked confidential to the receiver, and in these cases I seldom do business with the sender again. As you build business and personal relationships the element of trust is paramount above all other issues to see that the relationship continues. Although it is possible to repair trust violations, it requires significant effort and commitment to regain a lost trust.
Society condones a lot of negative behavior by making it accessible, and rationalizing it as serving a need. In Louisiana you can still drive up to a bar and get a red bull and vodka for $6.00 through a drive-in window. But just because there is a want, and a willing consumer doesn’t make the behavior safe or healthy. Just because the bcc exists doesn’t make its use right.
I recommend that the bcc be both a practical lesson, and a reminder for your decisions in life. Regardless of what others do, or what others make possible for you to do, you should be guided by two thoughts. First, we should treat others as we wish to be treated. Second, you shouldn’t be guided by decisions in a search for right or wrong, but rather in a quest to do the healthy thing for yourself and others. Right and wrong can be really hard to figure out, but genrally if you ask yourself, ” is this healthy?”, the answer is pretty clear.
Nbcc: to anyone