Email forwarding amounts to ritual gift exchange:
"Forwarding a quirky email or an amusing link or video attachment to colleagues may seem innocent enough, but it is the modern equivalent of ritual gift exchange and carries with it similar social implications, say US researchers.
Email forwarding is a familiar part of modern email communications, and has spawned many an internet phenomenon, the Star Wars kid, the Numa Numa dance, and Oolong the rabbit to name just a few.
Benjamin Gross at the University of Illinois, US, and colleagues studied email forwarding behaviour by conducting informal interviews among email users. He says forwarding emails plays a vital role in constructing and maintaining modern social ties, despite the phenomenon receiving scant attention from social scientists.
Forwarding a genuinely amusing or interesting link to a friend, for example, shows that you are thinking of them and are aware of the sort of content they like, Gross says. But passing an irrelevant or out-of-date link on to contacts can be annoying, thus lowering the sender's social status in the recipient’s eyes."