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Email used to be fun. My early Hotmail days were full of pointless emails to friends I saw at school everyday, departed exchange students who I naively believed I would stay in touch with forever, and e-penpal messages to friends I’d made through Neopets. I even had dreams of one day falling in love over email, à la You’ve Got Mail, a super good 90s romcom where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks fall for each other over dial-up soliloquies.
These days however, email has grown from cute messaging medium to a daily source of abject terror. I am absolutely terrified of my inbox. Every time I get a new email I scream. It takes me five nervous breakdowns over nine months before I can actually reply to an email. Everything about email is horrible and I hate it. These are not exaggerations.
The first of my e-terrors is receiving an email. Usually this happens through my phone, with the ding-noise now a Pavlovian trigger to send a wave of nausea coursing through my poor little body. “Urgent: Your Apartment Is On Fire,” “Guess What You Actually Failed All Your Papers Ever Give Back Your Degree,” and “Your Friends Just Pretend To Like You” all seem like plausible subject headings. Nothing is too terrible to be emailed.
The other horrible thing about receiving an email is that there is a high chance that you then have to do something. And if there’s one thing I hate doing, it’s something. No thank you! Please leave me to peacefully do absolutely nothing at all! But a new email beckons all sorts of somethings you need to do. Fill in a form. Go to this thing. Write a convincing excuse as to why you cannot go to the thing. Answer some question that you do not know how to answer. Have this thing ready by this time. Noooo! Stop it! I don’t want to do any of these things! Why can’t my inbox be filled with flash-animated e-cards and fuschia pink Comic Sans messages from friends talking about Fall Out Boy anymore? I miss emails that are nice to read, emails that don’t expect anything of me, emails that don’t make me feel worse after reading them.
If there’s anything even worse than receiving an email, it’s having to send one. How do you write an email? I have no idea. I always feel needy and annoying when I send an email, and can never tell if an email actually warrants a response. I usually assume no and don’t reply to a lot of emails that probably do need a reply. There have been far too many emails that I will begin, usually just a “Cool, thanks” but the “Cool, thanks” looks so cold on the screen that I choose to never reply at all (which is why I frequently ghost my thesis supervisor).
Sometimes exclamation marks help to lessen the coldness, but the thing is that if you use one, then all the other plain full-stopped sentences sound cold. But if you use exclamation marks at the end of every single sentence! Then you might sound way too enthused! Or just manic! You’re either yelling or an ice cold witch! There’s absolutely no winning! And then there’s the email signoff, which is also horrible. Following example, my go-to is now “Cheers,” a term that I would never ever utter in real life, yet in emails I am cheersing everyone all the time. I am a total phony and everyone can tell.
The bleakest thing about my email phobia is that it seems that email is here to stay. The closest alternative, ringing people on the phone, is even more terrifying. I can think of only two solutions. The first is that society reverts back to telegrams and letters delivered on silver platters by manservants. I even recently bought a brass letter opener in the extravagant hope that this will happen. Yes—give me my bad news, my bills, and nagging reminders via a quaint typewritten note or cursive letter, and not a horrible inbox (1). Let the quaintness of receiving news distract from whatever the news actually is. The second solution is that we all start using email for fun again. Bring back e-greetings, long messages about not a lot at all, and fluorescent fonts. Let the norm of email be someone genuinely wanting to talk to you, and not what the norm of email is now—something being asked of you, a gloomy reminder of responsibility. Cheers.