It’s hard to escape them. Even if you unplug and run away, they will be there when you get back. And they will have brought friends. Lots of them. Sounds like a cheesy horror flick, but I’m just talking about …email.
It’s hard to remember how we all communicated before email was a thing. For those of us (ahem) who are old enough to remember using a typewriter in the workplace, our first finger taps into the land of digital communication were tentative and fascinating.
Flash forward a coupla decates and now we can’t escape the flood of messages that fill our inboxes literally faster than we can respond. We are deluged with the good, the informative, the funny, and of course the bad and the ugly.
It strikes me that the land of email has become the modern digital equivalent to a packed bar or dance club where everywhere you look, an email is giving you a Joey Tribbiani “How you doin.” Like the people we’d meet during a night out at the bar, each email has its own personality, its own goal, and its own level of either attractive pleasantness or sleazy eww-factor.
The sleaziest of course are the scammers. These are the kind of scary lookin’ folks hanging out in the corners of the bar or outside near the door, trying to lure you in. The scam email is either the guy with slicked back hair, way too much jewelry and cologne you can smell from 10 feet away who can’t stand still, OR the drugged out nervous small dude with his hoodie pulled up over his head, shades on, constantly looking over his shoulder. He reeks of pot or body odor. They ask us to buy them gift cards for an important project, to lend them money to get their cousin out of jail in Peru, or offer a can’t miss deal on Amazon. As Real Women, we walk by disgusted and tell them to go pound salt, but also spend a lot of time protecting our innocent little sisters or great Aunt Agnes from engaging. We call over the bouncers (email IT nerds) to shut them down or scare them away.
Next up on our bar encounter are the mysterious friends of the scammers. These are the folks who sneak up, hand you their number (or email address) and say “Call me. I’ll make it worth your while.” Then disappear. I literally received an email from one of these strangers today. It read: I would like us to discuss some important business that will benefit both of us. I will send you more details upon your response. Really? Who thinks that is going to work? It’s like making a blind date with a convict. Again, it is important to hold your little sister’s hand and say “No. Don’t do it. How many times have I told you not to take a drink from a stranger?”
As we take our seats at the bar and survey the crowd, we cringe when we see the desperate person who asked us out on a date three months ago and still has not gotten the message we aren’t interested. This is the email that shows up from someone pitching their services or product, or has randomly picked your name out of a hat. I get many, many of these at work, usually from someone trying to sell me an email list so I can – you got it – email lots and lots of other people who I had to purchase their information from a stranger because I don’t know them personally. The desperate, hurt, ignored email invariably conveys this message: “This is my fifth email to you and I still have not received a response.” Yeah, that’s right. It’s called ghosting. Go bother someone else.
You know who’s next in our bar encounter. The ever so perky marketing emailer. 90% of them are retailers or manufacturers who are JUST SO EXCITED TO SHOW YOU A NEW PRODUCT or tell you their CLEARANCE SALE IS ON NOW. They are energetic, dance all night, literally vibrate when they talk to you and act beyond excited to be in your presence. I have to admit that in my professional life, I spend a bit of time with this crowd. I kind of am one of them. We are all competing to tell our stories the best, be the funniest and cleverest…we passionately believe that we have something you really really need. We are dressed up in the coolest trends and brightest colors to grab the most attention and we spend the night yelling over the music and buying fruity caffeinated drinks and giving out swag like stickers, pins and koozies for your drinks. If you ignore us or tell us to go away, that’s ok because 20 minutes later we’ll be in your face again from the other side of the dance floor. We are ninja-like in tracking you down. Ironically I love and hate my own kind. My gmail account gets loaded up every minute of every day with these high energy bar mates. The only way to get rid of them is to take the time to sit and unsubscribe to each one – kind of like having that “it’s not you, it’s me no wait it’s really you” conversation you hate to have — which I never seem to have the time to do. And they know it.
Finally after weaving our way through the mass of bar bodies, we come across the few that make all those emails worthwhile, and the reason we walked into the club in the first place. We find an email from a friend, or a family member who lives too far away to see regularly. Or the work emails you actually do really need to make your day flow, or those that have answers to your questions. It could be an email from a new potential romantic partner and you get giggles and butterflies as you plan your ever so important response. Maybe it is an email from your longtime partner professing love or confirming vacation dates. It may be an email with a link to a really funny cat video or family photo. Just when we are feeling like we want to leave and head home, there’s a reason to stay. We sigh, wrap that bar email in a hug, and settle in for a chat and say “let me buy you a drink”. Suddenly all those others are easier to ignore.
Sure, we can choose not to enter the bar in the first place. But whether we like it or not, those emails will keep multiplying and vying for our attention. The only thing we have control over is how we respond… and how quickly we can push delete – or buy another round.
I realize that many of you reading these words are here because an email led you here. Thank you for pulling up a stool and settling in with a beverage. The next one is on me.