Give an active kid a hammer and what will they do? Use it on everything in sight.
With no boundaries or rules in place, everything is subjected to the hammer's usefulness, because it is such a wonderful and marvelous tool toy.
Email is a hammer.
I was on the internet for the first time back in 1995 and I had just started my university career. It was the heady days of Pine (for email), Finger (for finding if people were online), Gopher (for searching), and the Usenet (mmm... alt.caving). Browsing the web was done only in text. And getting "online" meant using telnet from within the school network or a dial-up connection.
One of the first friends I met in class was a fellow with a penchant for forwarding emails. Email was this brand new toy and we were all excited to use it, though we only had each other to talk to. (We all checked email in the same room at the same time.) I very soon was known in class by my username, probably because we saw each others' addresses so often.
Forwarded emails became a staple of our diet. My friend had his network of friends who would send him everything they received, and he on to us. It was pretty cool and a lot of fun... for about three weeks.
After a relatively short period of time, the novelty began to wear off and these endless forwards became quite tarnished. It became very obvious that many of the "feel good" stories were nothing more than well-crafted lies, and the threads of jokes went from poor to worse (especially the ASCII animated ones where you hold down the spacebar to achieve animation).
Years later the cycle continues, and for some it never ends. Honestly, I don't know how people have the time (or interest) to read (and then forward) all the garbage that passes through their mailboxes. Perhaps this is why spam is successful. Lonely, unbusy people, enjoying the novelty of this new hammer, expecting everyone to have the time (or interest) to read whatever "feel good" scam comes their way.
Bang, Bang, Bang... Forward, forward, forward...
Please, before you waste my (or others') time, do be considerate and research the background on the latest "hot" story to hit your inbox. Search for it in Snopes, and more often than not you'll find its a hoax.
And yes, there are legitimate articles that may be of benefit to me or to others. Forgive me if I never read them or never respond to them. If it doesn't interest me at that moment, chances are I'll never look at it again. I'd much rather prefer a personalized communication than something you received and think I'll be interested in. Or at least preface it with a personalized note and high-level synopsis. I don't want to read 2/3 only to discover that its a complete waste of my time. If you can sum it up in one sentence, and that sentence is appealing, I'm probably 10 times more likely to read-on.
Last but not least. Email generally is not the best mechanism for distributing cool videos to your friends. Find it on youtube.com (or post it there) and send me a description and link. My mailbox has a finite size, and I process (and store) a lot of email. Please don't flood me and make legitimate messages bounce.
(...directed at no one in particular. Just an observation and personal declaration.)