Last updateFri, 27 Nov 2020 10am

The e-mail distopia

After examining about a week of my emails not long ago, I realized how far we’ve come from the lovely hand-written letters we wrote when writing was an art.

It didn’t matter then what you said, as long as it was in cursive and you could sweep a capital T up into the air like a plumed hat. Hand inscription is all but gone now, because nobody can read it any longer, or wants to. Sadly, for future generations, centuries of hand-written sources in archives will appear to be as readable as crop circles. So what has replaced it?

1. Loss of sensitivity

Cyber communications today are insensitive, often misunderstood and will sometimes rankle people unintentionally. Because laziness takes over, and we don’t even bother to change the subject line. Subject: Terrible News. Uncle Petey died yesterday.  And then the email thread goes on for weeks into other topics that have nothing to do with Uncle Petey. Subject: Terrrible News. Uncle Petey died yesterday. Email: Hey, I know where you can get the best guacamole in Jalisco. And hey, don’t have to worry about me having ED. My problem is that I don’t have ED. LOL.  Subject: Terrible News. Uncle Petey died yesterday. Email: Hey, you got to call this chick. Strike while the IRON IS HOT. LOL. Know what I’m saying. LOL. Subject: Terrible News. Uncle Petey died yesterday. Email: Hey, how’s it hangin’? Called the chick? Haven’t heard from ya. Turn off the porn, and hit reply! LOL.

And the same thread will continue for weeks with the same subject line, while Uncle Petey turns in his grave.

2. Computer translating

These emails also have this auto-correct business, which is a nuisance.  Because auto-correct kidnaps your message and it can sound like you’re on the wrong meds. A simple sentence such as, “Can’t help thinking about how fast life flies on by,” turns into “Candy has things abling hot fat light flashes on boats.” See, the computer shouldn’t be translating for me, or jumping in before I’m finished. If it wishes to make a spelling suggestion, that’s okay.  But anything else sounds like deep-state code for a revolution.

And I don’t know how to disable auto-correct (or “dibs at to corridors”). Unfortunately, some of these auto-incorrects get missed, and, of course, you get phone calls to check on you, asking if you remember your mother’s maiden name.

3. Writing shortcuts

Using punctuation marks and emojis to explain stuff:  ¿% ^(  [I spent the rent money on a Picasso, sweetheart.] !:.(‘   [That’s why I started smoking again.]  People do this.

Then, there’s the new lexicon of initials that say permit statements, for discretion, for convenience, some for more emphasis: ROTFL, BRB, CYA, WEG, OMG and so on. If you don’t know these, you’re living in an inkwell world, because they are the beginning of a whole new alphabet. They are acronyms, initials that contract expressions into shorter glyphs. (The descendants of FUBAR. Everybody remembers FUBAR.) They infest all computer letter writing today. Like the Chinese glyths or letters, each one expresses a complete idea or thing. For instance, there’s one Chinese character for a woman. Put three women together and this is the Chinese glyth for gossip. (True. Don’t write me any nasty letters.)

4. Dated subject lines. Press Compose.

The other thing that complicates email reads is that you never know where you are in the thread when you press reply. In the example above, you could come into the Uncle Petey’s Death thread three weeks after you received the first email, finally check the subject line and write, “I thought you said Uncle Petey died three weeks ago. I mean I sent flowers! I’M TOTALLY EMBARRASSED!”

Confusing? Yeah, it is. This then leads to people who insist on WRITING IN ALL CAPS SO THAT YOU DON’T THINK THEIR EMAIL IS TRIVIAL. (BECAUSE IT IS!)

5. Computer-delay

Finally, the most bizarre thing about emails is that they can get computer-delayed and you suddenly get an email from Uncle Petey.