Remember when email was first introduced? It was just too good to be true. It was free. It was almost instantaneous. It was wonderful. Back then, in the Dark Ages of computing, we had to pay for online time. By the minute. Today that would bankrupt all of us but in those early days, we didn’t spend every waking hour with a phone or tablet in our hands. First of all, the phones were all connected to a wall with a very sturdy wire and secondly, the only tablets were those you took with a full glass of water. But emailing itself remained free. And wonderful.
The Internet was a natural extension of computer use. I don’t care if Al Gore or CERN or Bill Gates invented it. I just care that it is at my fingertips every minute of every day and that it is fast. Eventually online time became free and by free I mean not really free. The second we stopped being charged for every tick of the clock of online time, usage skyrocketed. The encyclopedia became a doorstop and no one could even spell dictionary without an iPad. Unfortunately, someone still has to pay for all that browsing and sorting and searching and time-wasting. And you know who that someone still is, don’t you? As I understand it, and to be perfectly frank, my understanding of how the Internet works is somewhat less comprehensive than an ameba’s understanding of nuclear physics, the Internet is funded by ads. Ads pop up all the time now to the point that what we innocent users are browsing, sorting, and searching for becomes obscured by flashy ads for things no sane person would want. Often it takes so long to clear the screen of ads that I forget what I was looking for in the first place. This is, strictly speaking, not entirely the fault of those who put the ads online but the alternative is to blame my memory and I’m not quite ready to do that.
Then came cell phones. The good thing about cell phones is that you are always in touch with the world. The bad thing about cell phones is that you are always in touch with the world. It is the immediacy of a phone ringing that makes it so dangerous and why people continue to wreck their cars answering a phone. But mostly cell phones are a wonderful convenience. Sadly, telemarketers discovered they can be just as annoying on a cell phone as they can be on a land line. And that is very very very annoying indeed. Oh sure, you can register your cell number on the FCC’s do-not-call list. It’s utterly and totally futile but it will give you something to do with your phone during the five minutes a day the telemarketers aren’t calling you.
So the serpent in the garden of the Internet is the ads. The serpent in the garden of phones is the ads. It was just a matter of time until that sneaky snake slithered into the realm of the previously unsullied email. (I fully realize email is sort of sullied by spam. But that is why Al Gore or CERN or Bill Gates invented spam filters. Spam filters work much better than the FCC.)
Currently, I receive about thirty emails a day. Twenty of those emails are from exciting merchants such as Home Alarms R Us and the University of Fake Degrees. These people are willing, nay eager, to sell me a burglar alarm or a doctorate in just about anything. I get offers to train my dog, test my water, become an airline captain, establish a web site, or print my favorite photo on canvas.
I don’t need a burglar alarm because of my dog who is already better trained than most children and many adults. I’ve been drinking this water for 60 years so if there is something bad in it, it’s probably too late to fix it or me. I’d like to be an airline captain if only for the snappy uniform but it seems to me there is (or certainly ought to be) some sort of working-up towards that exalted position that I don’t have time for. No one who understands computers as little as I do has any business running a web site, and I’m not really a fan of photographs being wildly enlarged and hung on my wall.
So I opt to unsubscribe. “Unsubscribe” is to email as “do not call” is to phones. The marketers who ply their trade via email promise to comply with my wishes but I have a hard time believing them. These are the same people, you understand, who say I can earn a PhD in two weeks. Not even Al Gore did that.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.