When New York University sophomore Max Wiseltier got an email about a change to his tuition, he did what any college student would do: He sent it to his mom.
The only problem?
Wiseltier, a business finance major minoring in computer science, hit “reply all,” thereby looping in the nearly 40,000 other NYU students who were copied on the email listserve.
“I have a pretty old computer, and when I went to hit the send button it froze a little bit. So I was kind of clicking around and must have hit the wrong button,” Wiseltier told ABCNews.com by phone today.
“My roommate asked me why I sent him an email, and that aroused some suspicion,” he said. “I wasn’t sure exactly why he’d gotten it, but pretty soon other friends were texting and emailing me, and I realized I’d made a pretty big mistake.”
The good news was that Wiseltier’s error, an ironic one, he admitted, for a computer science minor, was a harmless one.
His question to his mom about the university’s change to a new, electronic tuition form was a simple “Do you want me to do this?” not the sort of profanity-laced, career-ending, cringe-inducing email of which “reply-all” legends are made.
He also followed his first email reply with another, apologetic email, writing “SORRY!!!!!! Gmail switched my reply to reply all!” Looking back, that may have fanned the flames even further.
Wiseltier’s “pretty big” mistake Monday night sparked an email frenzy that quickly grew into an Internet firestorm after his Web-savvy peers sent the email to sites like Gawker, which were quick to highlight his error.
Wiseltier, a New York City native, says he got so many thousands of emails in reply, some sent just to him and others sent again to the whole listserve, that he had to build a delete filter on his email account. He also became an instant celebrity on Twitter and Facebook, where he got so many new friend requests that the site suggested people subscribe to him instead, “like I was a celebrity or something,” according to Wiseltier.
“It started this chain reaction and created sort of a frenzy as it gained awareness and snowballed more,” he said. “It’s been overwhelming but wild and it is what it is, so I’m just enjoying it all.”
Wiseltier, who promises he’s never had anything like this happen to him before, says the responses to his email ranged from the angry and annoyed to the confused and funny.
“Someone asked all of NYU if they could borrow a pencil,” he said of his favorite reply. “Another asked his professor when his office hours are, just poking fun that it’s going out to everyone.”
Wiseltier says no one from NYU contacted him about the error, but the university did eventually shut down the listserve to contain the response. That action did not happen, however, until nearly 24 hours after Wiseltier’s initial email, a time during which, he says, “thousands upon thousands of emails had been exchanged among the students.”