When I begin to write an email, I am openly engaging in a never-ending struggle to get the greeting right — my face transforms into that of an important person, about to solve world mysteries through the click of some buttons by well manicured fingertips. In reality, my fingernails are half painted blue, half bitten off and the email I am writing is solely an attempt at modest employment, returning a hello, or sharing an embarrassing youtube clip — So, not in any way an effort at saving the world.
But I can’t just write the email because it’s too hard — because most of the charm of being myself is how I am in person. That’s a total cop-out as a writer but seriously, I’m super captivating and dynamic in person. My old boss told me I get the engagement award at meetings (which didn’t exist) for emphatically bobbing my head, smiling and just really connecting with everything she said. I’m a head bobber. I look interested and engaged in what you’re saying and that makes you feel good. And then you make me feel good for making you feel good. Do you see what I’m saying? It’s hard for you to see how good I’d make you feel over email without me being that person who overly uses emoticons.
What’s worse is that I was born in the age where virtual communication is supposed to be super natural. Sure, I grew up on AIM, so I know a bit about
flirting my way into a virtual relationship virtually communicating my personality — but this had nothing to do with being professional.
There’s also no such thing as a sarcasm font and that is tragic. ‘Dear Sir/Madam who is hopefully going to fund my addiction to Starbucks iced coffees in the future’ wouldn’t be an appropriate way to start off an email. I have learned this. Professional seems to always trump quirky. There is also a problem I seem to have with being appropriate. I have a theory about this called the Michael Scott model which predicates that a lovable inappropriate asshole is still lovable — that’s basically the whole theory. The point of this theory is that it allows me to feel okay about being an inappropriate asshole. The problem with this is that the lovable part doesn’t usually transfer over email which leads to a stripping away of the whole entire character, producing an email tone similar to George Feeney’s (William Daniels) way of speaking.
Emailing immediately relegates me to a perpetual state of insecure teenage outsider — like that time when a Senior boy in my high school came to my table at lunch just to pop my birthday balloon. I don’t know the person I am emailing as well as I want to and basically, I want to be a part of their team. I want him or her to pick me first for dodgeball, or basketball, or swim races ( I’m really good at all those things). So you try the standard greetings: Dear Hiring Manager, To Whom It May Concern, Hello Madam/Sir, Hello Mr. or Mrs. Has More Power than Me, etc etc. And the worst possible response? You get an email reply with absolutely NO greeting because they are super aloof and hip and totally past all those formal greeting procedures, and also they are, of course, “going to pass” on you working with them.
At this exact moment I am in the middle of writing an email to a woman from a temp agency who could potentially get me a job. This sentence alone should tell you how prepared I am to send this email. “A woman from a temp agency.” Wow, Aly, you’ve really done your research. I am president of the emailers against researching club which meets daily on my couch. This might have contributed to my current, extended state of unemployment.
“You’ll literally have a job the next day after you email her” says Anna, my red-headed counterpart who I imagine goes to work in 80s power suits even though I know what her wardrobe looks like. But what if she senses my rebellious attitude towards email communication? What if she never gets the chance to see how endearing I am while bobbing my head? It’s tragic.
And then there is the reality of knowing I myself never answer emails…or text messages…or smoke signals. Usually to get in touch with me you must let yourself into my apartment and clap a few times in front of my face while offering me a dark chocolate sea salt infused candy bar, or use the pretense of wanting to compliment me on my awesomeness. I’m always available for flattery. But knowing my own attitude on email decorum negates me from taking email communication seriously — too much of a chance to be rebuffed — and it is not my preferred way of ignoring massive amounts of people (that’s usually voicemail and text messaging). And also when you see me in person and ask, “Hey, did you get my email?” I want to punch you square in your eye because why the hell would you send me an email if you were going to see me some time in the near future? Of all the possible ways to get in contact with me you’ve chosen the one in which Groupon and the Mary-Kay-lady-I-was-too-nice-to-say-no-to are among the most frequent attendees. At least put a god damned important flag on that thing.
I’m also convinced that emoticons are taking over and I’m desperately scared of plunging into a world of fake, creepy, emoji faces as substitutes for displaying personality through well thought out discourse. Emoji icons for Facebook statuses are deviously genius — further perpetuating people’s likeliness to adequately depict their emotions through pre-made pictures without having to physically be around anyone. Where this is headed, as I see it, is a massive population of overweight recluses representing themselves through yellow or blue smiley faces. And this is coming from someone who counts brushing her teeth as leaving the house.
There’s just too many ways to give a wrong impression. Whether it’s over email, Facebook messaging, twitter, texting, tumbling, whatever. We have all opened up communication so much that our main concern is worrying about how we sound in all these mediums. So far, my solution is perfecting communication between myself and my dog, Tengo. This is going very well. He has assured me that he would hire me for any job as long as I keep mixing wet food into his dinner — a very clear,well-received message.
Response to DP Challenge