Humor Opinions

Email has turned all of us into hypersensitive, overly excited wussies

Posted by David Zaleski on June 24th, 2013 at 10:00 am

I blame email for today's society. I blame it for all the political correctness, phoniness, and why we all feel like we need to walk around on emotional eggshells. Before email, a perfectly kind digital message went like this:

People used to see this and think "Great! I guess he'll pick me up at 9!" Not, "My word, is he mad at me?"

Beepers and early text messages didn't have room for personality. That's what made them so deliciously efficient. The lack of personality is also what people complained about. The more personal you made digital messages the better, right? We didn't know the politically correct Pandora's box we were opening up.

Once we were able to craft personal messages in emails, the super-sensitivity clock started ticking. At first it was no big deal. Email was just like a beeper message with a few more characters.

Just look at that. Clean, clear, and clutter free. He even separated it with a few line breaks for readability. Good for you, Mark. Good for you. This is how email should have stayed. Now it's all gone to hell.

So what happened? I don't remember reading smiley faces, smiley faces with noses (whatever : - ) is), and 75,000 exclamation points in hand written letters before email.

It's because digital messages are by their nature sterile and soulless. A handwritten letter is soaked in charming imperfect personality. Getting this:

shot to you at the speed of light is terrifying.

This is why we have a bazillion different fonts. I swear they were created to soften the impact of digital messages which would otherwise be communicated without a problem to a less sensitive crowd. But even fonts don't work in alleviating digital mood-sensing anxiety.

So instead, we've learned to take our most basic, common, everyday emotions and hit hyper-dive. You're not just happy anymore, you're "excited!" You're not just disappointed anymore, you're "disappointed… : ( "  And your not just friendly anymore. Now you're :D !!

When's the last time you got an email without an exclamation point in it? I can't remember, and the search would probably freeze my already slow Windows 97' Outlook. I assume it's being clogged up by all unnecessary daily punctuation. We don't need all these exclamation points, but other people need you to know that they are not mad at you, and are in fact SUPER SUPER EXCITED!! …to be sending you an expense report.

This kind of unnecessary enthusiasm is draining our daily emotional reserves. It's why we all go home exhausted each day despite having done no manual labor. I have a feeling email is responsible for a lot of divorces.

And how about smiley faces? : ) The first time I got one of these in an email I thought someone was hitting on me. It's gotten worse now. Like anything, the more you see it the more it loses it's effect. So this:

: )

Turned into this:

: - )

...and then this:

: D

...and now it's this?


What, is someone so excited to be emailing me that they pooped their pants?

And can someone please tell me what the hell this is?

: P

The best I can figure it is that someone wants me to know they're eating a piece of bacon and failing at it. Is that supposed to be a tongue? Why would you stick your tongue out at me in an email? Is this supposed to be endearing?! DO YOU SEE HOW EMOTIONAL I'M GETTING?!

I'm not old, but I'm old enough to know when I'm being messed with.

Don't even get me started on these puppies.

Thank you rich media. Because this:

: )

just wasn't doing it for me. I needed COLOR! Just look at those goofy faces, how could someone be mad at you with one of those bad boys embedded in your inbox?

Oh, and can we talk about this?


Yeah, that's it.

Trust me, I'm not immune to any of this. When I get an email or text response with the letter 'k' I immediately think I pissed someone off. The worst is:


Break that one down for a second. When you read it out loud, someone responded to you by saying "Okay! Okay!"

Jeez, sorry. Didn't know your time was so valuable.

LOL and HAHA make me personally depressed. I know I'm not being funny, and I know they're not really laughing out loud or HAHA-ing. LOL and HAHA are meant to provide a little levity to the email landscape. The static digital laughter only adds to the hyper sensitive Orwellian world we now reside in outside of our inbox. You never know if you're being actually funny anymore, or if you're just getting the real life version of an LOL.

People convey vague disappointment with perhaps the worst emoticon ever invented:

: /

As bad as the others are, this one stands out as the absolute WORST. The others are at least conveying a strongly understood emotion. This typography can be used in literally any situation.

"I know… I love you  : / "

"She's dying  : / "

"Is this rash normal?  : / "

While we're on the subject, can we get rid of this too?

; )

I find it awkward enough when someone winks at me in real life, especially when I find out they're not a woman. Does everything these days require an inside joke and under-the-rug quirkiness? Most Americans leave there house at 9 a.m. to go to work in a badly written 80s sitcom.

I'm getting bombard with this crap every day. From my phone, to my inbox, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, smoke signals… my life has become an endless downpour of premature apologies and preemptive excitement. People literally apologize for NOTHING these days.

Me: "Hi, hows it going?"

Her: "So sorry it took me so long to respond! I was taking a nap  ; ) "

Me: "Don't wink at me, mom."

People can't be this excited all the time. They just can't. I refuse to believe it. I watch the news.

If people were really this nice, then the world would be too. It's not. Everyone I've ever met is complaining. I always get very suspicious when I meet a happy person. I want to ask them where they scored their vice, but when it becomes clear to me they're not on drugs, I revert back to searing social distrust.

When did American corporate life become so sensitive? When did white-collar culture turn into a pseudo Orwellian world where every digital communication is peppered in smiles, puppies, and happy rainbows? I'd love to get some good old fashion blue collar workers like my dad and plop them into an office for a day. I think this would be their reaction to every email they get:

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Or this:

All this exaggerated excitement and hyperbolic happiness in digital communication is taking a bite out of us as human beings. Over the past 10 years, email (and the digital emotional baggage that comes with it) has turned us into a emotionally manic and socially skittish society. It's transformed our personalities. It's bled into the real world to the point where everyone I meet now is SUPER nice, to the point where I'm terrified.

Over the past 10 years, a "normal" disposition has become the new "mean," and a "happy" disposition has become the new "normal." Radio DJs are getting fired left and right for saying the wrong thing for one second. Movie stars BETTER have the right social position or we'll boycott their films. Even fast food restaurants and Paula Dean aren't safe from today's super sensitive and politically correct mob of overly excited do-gooders.

Remember Disney movies in the 80s and 90s? That was some dark cinema. "The NeverEnding Story," "Hocus-Pocus," even "The Lion King" had the cojones to murder Mufasa by having him trampled to death in front of his child. Those movies toughened kids up and prepare them for the real world. But now, the "real world" has been transformed into a emotionally positive dystopian society where even an email can't be sent without an emoticon without being unkind. Instead of movies that teach kids harsh realities, today's children are treated to this crap:

And this.

And just check out this new incredibly thought provoking movie coming out from Disney this year.

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Back when I was a kid, we had a name for movies like this: G-rated. Once upon a time, that was a bad thing if you were a ten year old. Now it's the fluffy, cotton candy normal until you reach 18. I'm convinced that if nuclear war happens with this generation in charge, they'll all go around politely apologizing for it.

So let's stop with the :) and the :D and the XD and the :P and the ;) and the !!!!! OK? They're the basis for what's destroying society. They're bad for us. I need to go home with some energy at night, not as an empty shell of a former human being with a hollowed out backbone. I need to feel some negativity in my life that isn't spawned from feeling bad about participating in the overly positive social ether. I need to know that sometimes the people around me feel as bad as I do about the state of the world, the economy, wars, terrorism, and Kim Kardarshian's new baby. So let's stop emoting. Stop it. Stop it now.

Maybe we've turned a corner we can't come back from, but the 50s were pretty unbearable from what I'm told, and we emerged from it to enjoy decades of fun. So I don't suppose we could all just stop? No? No?

: /

2 Responses to “Email has turned all of us into hypersensitive, overly excited wussies”

  1. Erik Wayton says:

    Well said David. I for one will take the oath to use plain emotional free communication. It worked for our Parents. Thank you for a great piece.

  2. Christopher M says:

    I agree with the author, even if 8-/ is my fave emoticon.

    My personal delight is the email, followed with a phone call to make sure I got the email, followed with an IM to make sure I got both of those...and they'll have a number of exclamation points, emojis, and then s'more exclamation points, just in case I've run out of them.

    I know I sound "old", but I'd rather get one phone call or face-to-face discussion than having to play email volleyball all day, and leave work wondering what I did for the past 8 or so hours.

    Thanks for a great article! 8-)

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