Thursday, August 30, 2007

Many correspondents, few lovers

Email is good for one thing only: flirtation. The problem with flirtation has always been that the nervousness you feel in front of the object of your infatuation deprives you of your wittiness. But with email you can spend an hour refining a casual sally. You trade clever notes as weightless, pretty, and tickling as feathers. The email, like the Petrarchan sonnet, is properly a seduction device, and everyone knows that the SUBJECT line should really read PRETEXT.

But one has many correspondents, and few if any lovers. Individually, they’re all decent people; collectively, they form an army marching to invade your isolation and ransack your valuable time....

-- From "Against email", an unsigned essay in the latest issue of n+1. (I sent my very first email in late 1995 or early 1996--I wish I could remember more exactly. But I remember who I sent it to and more or less what I wrote. I also remember a sense of awesome--or should that be "awful"?--thrill. I knew the world had changed, but I didn't yet know how. And how could I have guessed--I barely understand it now--that a casual click of the send button would start the avalanche that finds me here, a decade later, at the bottom of a scree-strewn slope, in the desolate sump of Facebook?)

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