Sunday, December 02, 2007
My E-mail Inadequacy is Not My Fault
You can probably tell, just by that sentence, just how different life has become in the last nine years. It especially was for me, as a university freshman still entertaining the delusion that I could successfully major in a scientific field. However, before this personal fallacy would be shattered, I had a life-changing event take place in my freshman orientation class at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Generally speaking, our class required us to show up and listen to the advisor tell us how to pay our tuition and which buildings we could go to in order to “appreciate” various liberal arts programs, such as “Guy with Graying Ponytail Plays Series of Random Chords on Classical Guitar.”
However, if we were to pass our all-important one-hour orientation course, he required that we complete one task I had never attempted before: I had to use the account that UTM had generously provided me with to respond to one of my advisor’s e-mails.
Now, as a teenager growing up miles outside of Paris, Tenn., I had considered e-mail to be one of those things I need never be interested in. Maybe the city slickers in Paris, with their teeming population of nearly 10,000-strong, their prevalent supply of stop signs, and their fully functioning indoor plumbing needed to “electronic mail” people, but we were simple country folks and the phone was fine for us.
Even so, I was taking College Algebra and General Biology that semester and I needed a good grade in at least one of my classes, so I went to the UTM library and resolved to conquer this daunting task. After logging in to my account and planning what response I wanted to type, I then had only to confirm a couple of complicated technical aspects with the lab supervisor, such as whether or not the “Reply” button opened his letter and ‘Send’ completed this whole vexing process.
Two hours later, I had accomplished my goal: I would receive a “P” to go alongside the D’s and C’s on my report card. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had also become a neophyte user of e-mail. In order to complete the process, I had to move away from rural West Tennessee, because having grown up there, the only people who actually wanted to talk to me were those I saw on a daily basis (and not all of those, come to think of it).
Another thing I didn’t realize at the time is that I was playing directly into the hands of an insidious worldwide conspiracy. You may have heard of shadowy groups like this, who start wars in places like Iraq to gain power for themselves, who are behind the election of our unpopular two-term presidents, and randomly pick baseball players to suddenly transform into burly record-breakers.
Well, I believe that these sinister forces are also determined to make most of us feel behind the times technologically.
You see, just after I sent that first fateful e-mail, I chose to get my own Hotmail account, based on such criteria as 1) a friend suggested it and 2) “Hotmail” as a name is cheesy and unimaginative, but in an endearing way. For years it served me well, and I could use it to contact people who wrote regularly (the people I like to call “Mom”) and those who write with much less frequency (the people I like to call “everyone other than Mom”).
Then in recent years, I came into contact with more and more people who used Gmail accounts, all of whom insisted that, as far as innovations go, it lay somewhere in between the wheel and nine-iron. I resisted the transition, however, because A) Hotmail had served me for so long and B) you had to be invited to use Gmail.
Finally, this year, one of the less-snobbish Gmail users opened the door for me to begin using this product. Instantly, those behind the conspiracy sprung into action. Realizing that they’d snagged the last possible sucker who will never be up-to-date no matter how hard he tries, within months they had negated the triumph of my acquisition and made it possible for anyone to get an account just by signing up.
But they weren’t finished: for years they’ve been planning to make irrelevant the form of electronic communication I was just starting to master. Their efforts seem now to have reached fruition, as I read at Slate.com on Nov. 14, in an article entitled, “The Death of E-mail.” This piece said:
According to a 2005 Pew study, almost half of Web-using teenagers prefer to chat with friends via instant messaging rather than e-mail. Last year, comScore reported that teen e-mail use was down 8 percent, compared with a 6 percent increase in e-mailing for users of all ages. As mobile phones and sites like Twitter and Facebook have become more popular, those old Yahoo! and Hotmail accounts increasingly lie dormant.
Don’t be fooled! Articles like these and others that our technological tormentors have engineered are designed to make us think that they want to make communication easier, but their true agenda is to make us feel hopelessly behind the times.
Well, they will only succeed if we play along with their schemes! The time as come for us to resist!
From now on, I say that we use only post-it notes.
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