Monday, 10 September 2007

Email is impersonal and almost useless, so why can't we live without it!

Computer Virus
"Oh my good God! What have I done?"
A black line, carrying behind it a greying area of screen, is descending from the top of my computer screen, slowly spreading to the bottom, veiling my beloved desktop in a chilling shroud.
Oh no! Oh no no no! Have I somehow managed to download a virus onto my iMac?
Or was that grey cascading down my monitor an Apple Safety Curtain, a protective shell built within to protect my compootchah from scabrous net scum?
A dialogue box jumps up on screen, telling me to restart my computer, but does the order come from within Apple's software, or from a new invader?
Is that voice of the virus, the disguised plea of lurking cyber lurgy, hoping only that I will ignorantly obey, thus somehow opening the micro passages and nano doorways it needs to copy and probably dissolve my data?
What the heck!
I hit restart and sit, dry mouthed, as I wonder whether my faith in Apple is about to be trashed.
We Mac-ites are of the belief that the vast majority of the world's cyber viruses, trojan horses, worms, bats, crabs (and probably slugs by now) are designed to battle with the might of Microsoft. As long as you stay away from Outlook Express and Windows, Vista or whatever operating system the PCs of the world are running, you're safe as houses.
Thus, there I was, deleting crap from my inbox, musing upon how bleedin' useless email is as a form of communication, when my eye struck upon a message that looked vaguely legit.
Yes, it had an attachment, which might be enough to extinguish it on sight, but it wasn't offering me an enlarged penis. This email wasn't trying to sell me Viagra, and it wasn't inviting me to buy stocks and shares, or invest in a new block of flats. It wasn't written in a foreign language and it didn't say 'H®éDT£16n#™¦'.
Don't know about you, but when emails announce themselves with a subject like 'H®éDT£16n#™¦', I tend not to think 'Oh, that must be a message from my sweet cousin Jenny!'.
A man could feel pretty excited and popular if he were to take his Spam (junk email) seriously.
Last week I was invited to become an honorary member of a Rambling society. I won a lottery. An old classmate (who I suspect was neither old nor a classmate) wanted to contact me. A bloke in Nigeria wanted me to look after ¤36,000 for him, and some other bunch wanted to help me make my tadger grow to the size of a small tree.
I never used to get Spam, but inevitably, as I visit more sites, so my email address appears more often, and I end up deleting loads of messages each day.
In fact, these days, I tend to just delete anything and everything that I do not recognise or trust, which rather begs the question: 'What is the point of emails?'
Outside of the business world, the whole point of one human communicating with another is that the interaction might feel personal.
I know I'm about to sound incredibly old-fashioned, but while the internet and email have revolutionised my working life, for which I am eternally grateful, I used to like writing a letter, and receiving one back.
There was something sensual and intriguing about the envelope, the notepaper, the twist and whorl of a girlfriend's handwriting.
To hold a message, a piece of news, an impulsively-included sweet nothing in your hands, to take in the scent was quite magic.
Letters helped you to feel close to, or more aware of, the sender.
Email is instant, inhuman and cold.
We don't write letters any more, and increasingly, we don't write emails either. We just write txts, which could never be accused of either expanding or enhancing the language, and yes, even on your mobile phone, the spam/service message junk comes pouring in.
Spam accounts for over 85% of all email traffic worldwide. According to the Ferris Research Group, University of London, the average office worker spends 49 minutes 'managing emails' each day.
If you make the dizzying heights of Senior Management Worker, you will apparently spend 4 hours a day 'managing emails'
Anyway. what's all this 'managing emails' stuff? We just used to call it 'sciving' when I were t'lad.
Once again, the need to ask how efficient a form of communication is email, when we not only fear for the health of our computers, but also, when spotting the real messages amongst the detritus is harder than Viagra overload?
Over the years, I have received hundreds of emails from readers, but nowadays, unless they make real and understandable reference to the piece, or the newspaper in question, I might well be missing out on bona fide reader messages.
If they look dodgy, I delete them.
At least with junk mail that comes through your letter box, you have the chance to read it, judge it and then chuck it out, without threatening the fabric of your household. But on a computer it's just not worth the risk.
As I said, up to now, being a Mac user, I have often felt arrogantly indifferent to viruses, trojan horses and all that. It occurred to me that they might become more of a target to begrudgers after the success of the iPod, but there I was, struck fearful and shwetty, staring at the screen in front of me.
Why oh why did I open that email? Haven't I always sniffed and scoffed at how the silly people who open their silly emails and then click on their silly attachments get what they deserve?
And now is it time for my comeuppance? Has pride finally earned this fool a fall?
Was it a virus that made my computer go all wonky, or was it a brilliant piece of Apple software that sensed something unwelcome in the machine, and has since chewed it up, kicked it right up its cyber jacksy and spat it out through a portal in the Ethernet?
Sounds good, doesn't it? Almost like I know what I'm talking about?
Thankfully my compootchah still seems mucho intacto, so all power to Apple.
Now, pass me my pen and paper.

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