03/28/2008 02:48 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Modern Manners: Is Bcc'ing Evil?

I attended a lecture series a few weeks back that was held in the parish hall of an Episcopal church. Just before the last class began, I ended up speaking with the head priest about e-mail. He's a stereotypical Anglican priest -- white hair, British -- yet irreverent enough to make him charming. He spoke about his frustration with people who don't include a greeting or a closing in their e-mails. I started to agree with him when, suddenly, he said aghast, "And have you EVER used the Bcc option? I think it's the devil's work!"

The Wrong Time to Bcc
Okay, I'll confess. I've done the devil's work. My heyday of using Bcc (blind carbon copy) was between the ages of twenty-three and twenty-five. Occasionally, I would Bcc my best friend on some of the e-mail exchanges with guys I was dating to save me the trouble of having to forward them to her later. It was wrong. I know. But it's so much easier to show someone an actual e-mail then to say, "Well, he wrote me this e-mail that said. . ." What stopped me from Bcc'ing my friend all the time was pure paranoia -- how did I know Bcc wasn't going to rat me out? Or what if I had an absent-minded moment and put her in the Cc widow instead?

I can't help but wonder, why is it even an option? What e-mail engineer decided that we had to have the opportunity to make invisible third parties privy to our afternoon musings -- especially when, again, you can just forward what you wrote. I won't go so far as to refer to Bcc as the devil's work, but, yes, it is an ethical violation. It is no better or worse than the regular run of-the-mill sins such as lying, gossiping, or mocking someone behind their back. This is the virtual way to commit those age-old crimes.

The Right Time to Bcc
I'm not convinced this was the original purpose of Bcc, but it does come in handy in the way of combating Cc problems. Personally, I have never cared where my name falls on the grand scale of a mass e-mail. If I'm first, I don't consider myself a rock star, and if I'm last, I don't consider myself a peon. I don't care, but rumor has it that some people take mass e-mail placement very personally. Lately, I've noticed friends troubleshooting this by Ccing themselves on a mass e-mail and Bccing everyone else. Ignorance is bliss -- we don't know where we were placed and can go jovially about our day. Bccing the peanut gallery also alleviates the REPLY ALL problem. This is when people on the mass e-mail who you don't know hit "reply all" and you have to read their banal comments when you're just trying to get your work done. Opting for blind copying here also saves everyone the trouble of having to scroll down through a thousand names just to find the message itself. Well, I feel much better knowing Bcc isn't all bad.

Going to Confession
I came clean to my priest about all this. I told him I think Bcc is fine when mass e-mailing, he agreed, and I also told him that once upon a time I did Bcc behind some boys' backs. He said, "Really? You did that?" He then leaned forward to a young gentleman sitting across the table and said, "Eric, how would you feel if Samara did that to you?" Eric replied with a monotone, "I wouldn't know about it."