Apr 11, 2010

Back when computer screens were black, and text was white, and the cursor was a little blinking box

Certain emotions, I have assumed for years, are easily misunderstood when expressed via email. My first sense of this was around 1992, when my dad had email but I hardly understood what it was, and he received an email from a colleague that made him very angry.

The whole thing escalated very quickly, but eventually it turned out, at least in part, to be based on a misunderstanding. Once it was resolved, my dad passed on his newly acquired information about this unfamiliar technology to me by warning that emotional expressions seem to easily morph into something else via email. Also, that anger escalates quickly. I think his point was that being able to type and send ideas so fast sometimes leaves you sending something you might otherwise think better of, but in the years since then, in my mind at least, this has morphed into the idea that an emotion itself, when seen on a computer screen, can simply become bigger than it is.

But now I am thinking maybe this isn't it. Maybe emotions are simply expressed more bluntly in emails, and while this might make them more jarring, maybe it also leaves them more honest. Because really all those other expressions that surround our feelings when we express them verbally, the ones that impress the listener that we might be angry, but not out of control, or sad, but not in a way anyone should worry about, are simply meant to comfort the person you're talking to, and don't have much bearing on how you're really feeling at all.

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