Communication on the internet is always a bit touchy. E-mail, as wonderful as it is, is not always the best way to send a message. First of all, it’s too immediate, so people react by hitting the reply button without thinking through what they should say and how they should say it. What happens is the reply is not always consistent with the original message. And this is the second reason for the danger. No one is smart enough to read a tone on a message... you can’t hear what people mean by what they send in note. So messages are often misunderstood or misconstrued—it’s like the difference between a speech and a written essay. There are often opportunities for pauses and emphasis you can add when you speak, that you simply don’t get in a written text. It’s harder to write something that will convey meaning than it is to say it aloud. And finally there’s a great deal of garbage that lands in our e-mail. Some of it comes from solicitors and some from close and wonderful, well meaning friends.
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A few months ago I finally said to a few friends, “please don’t send me any more inspirational poems. I like good jokes but I do not want to be inspired – it’s much too late for my somewhat cynical constitution.” And additionally, you never get just one inspiring set of sentiments, you get them over and over and over and over. I wish I had a quarter for every duplicate inspirational verse I’ve received over the years. After I mentioned to my friend that I didn’t want to hear it anymore, they said that it was too bad and they weren’t going to edit their lists, because there might actually be something important they needed to tell me, so I had to live with the ‘intrusions’. My telling them not to send something did not hurt their feelings because the things they sent were not personal. It was simply an inconvenience in which they refused to participate-- but I’ll get back to that.
OK, OK, in a way they were right. But here’s the problem, it is impossible for me not to read what I am sent. Maybe it’s the yenta in my soul but I do have a need to know what people think I should know. It took me years to finally delete stuff (before I opened it) from strangers. I consider that, and not clicking on porn sights offered on a daily basis, some of my greatest internet achievements. So when I open one of those really insipid e-mails, I just groan and delete. I am no longer afraid that if I don’t send something to ten friends, like “Chicken Little”, the sky will fall on my head, or I will suffer some other unlikely disaster.
Any of us who have spent anytime on the net know that we can find anything in that virtual dictionary of useless information. I mean, we can learn about diseases we think we have. We can discover interesting places to shop, how certain foods affect moods, what to do with misbehaving children, what’s the best on Broadway, and millions of blogs about nothing. There is no end to the questions we can answer— accurate or otherwise. Somehow, wanting to find something is different than not necessarily wanting to know something. But that’s the reality of being exposed with an e-mail address.
Anyway, back to sending and receiving. Given my wish not to receive certain things, I am particularly sensitive about what I send. And although I am delighted about the birth of our new grandson Zachary, I have only sent pictures to my list two times. Once when he was five days and once at a month. I mean I have been very careful to control my tendency to shove our happiness down other people’s throats. So imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail that said, “He’s cute but we don’t need to see pictures of your grandson every two weeks.” Whew! That hit me in my heart. I wanted to write back and say, “Are you aware of the Delete option on your computer.” Or, “I know your mother taught you better manners, so what is this about?” But I didn’t because clearly, whatever that reply was about had nothing to do with Zachary. It was about hitting reply without thinking about the consequences, or it was about trying to hurt my feelings, either way it was their problem, not mine. But I did have to ask myself why someone would be deliberately rude, and I thought maybe not deliberately I had done something equally painful to them and rather than addressing it, (and because the internet is a good way to avoid person to person discussion), hitting me in my joy was their revenge. There has to be a better way to connect. We’re just sayin...Iris