Saturday, September 22, 2007

In praise of email

Simon Jenkins takes the modern world to task with an intemperate attack on email. Norm gives a sensible defence here, arguing that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the technology at all, it just needs using properly. I would go further and celebrate email. Forget the quill pen merchants, email can bring great joy.

Firstly, there is the liberation. Jenkins writes menacingly of 'the dreaded send button, itching to be pressed'. Instead I see the adored delete button, begging you to commit the message to oblivion. It isn't just the pleasure of eradication that elates, it is the contemplation of the alternative.

The worst blitz of spam is nothing to the phone call that wakes you up as you recover from a night of dedicated binge drinking, when, to your horror, you discover it is from some telesales team somewhere offering you something you neither want nor need, or, even worse, a customer relations advisor in India asking you about the service you received last week, when you can't even remember what it was you bought. Just as you go to give them a mouthful, you realise that the person is an underpaid wage slave doing a crap job and your conscience kicks in, you relent and tell them where to go nicely. With spam you can recover fully, pour another glass and hit delete with a flourish, accompanied by the foulest invective in the world with no worries. It is deeply satisfying.

And what about the people who send you interminable emails about complete bollocks. Delete them instantly and smile with relief because if they weren't able to send them to you they would have done something far worse; they would have talked to you. Hemmed in a corner by a determined bore you can search all you like for a delete button - it doesn't exist. You are doomed to hear their latest theory and nothing can save you other than extreme physical violence. And this is the point. These people don't do letters. You have a simple choice - an easy to delete email or at least forty-five minutes of hell.

But there is so much more. I keep in touch with old friends through email and have made new ones who I would not have met any other way. I have debated and developed ideas, supported others and received help myself. I have had instant conversations with friends even though we are hundreds of miles apart. You can save and file the messages you value without clogging drawers with crumbling paper. It is quick, cheap, easy and always legible. On top of which, I value writing and reading and now the world has started writing again; the art of correspondence has been revived. Even the much reviled text speak shows an amazing inventiveness with language, not that I have got a clue what anyone is saying. When the phone rings, I groan, but when I have mail in my inbox, I feel a tingle of anticipation. Email gives me reminders, connects me with people and alerts me to new things to read, gems I would have missed otherwise. And all this is delivered to me personally, wherever I may be in the world. It is wonderful. And, finally, without the daily advice that floods in, I hate to think just how much smaller my penis would be.

1 comment:

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