The internet has brought me a lot of joy over the years. There’s no denying its myriad charms: its ability to connect me with people, to entertain and amuse, to inform me, to expose me to new things, to help me max out my credit card on frivolous purchases I’ll regret later. But lately, I have been feeling like technology is turning against me.
Over the last two months, the internet has delivered not one but two decimating blows, first in the form of an unceremonious GChat dumping by a boyfriend I’d (ill-advisedly) reconciled with, and, more recently, in the guise of a sterile, business-like email I had the pleasure of opening last Sunday, informing me that I was no longer needed at my job. Um, f**k you, internet! The problem, as I see it, is varied. As has been chronicled exhaustively elsewhere, the sheer ease of communicating, sharing your thoughts and feelings with the rat-a-tat-tat of a keyboard and the click of a mouse — without thinking things through — is oftentimes a blessing and a curse. It escalates arguments, elevates sarcastic teasing to sudden, antagonistic assault, and gives a casual flippancy to scenarios that really probably require much more delicacy and sobriety than an email, no matter how well-crafted, can provide.
This especially applies to ending a relationship, be it personal or professional. Sure, there are some who, given a choice, might prefer to have bad news delivered in a way that ensures no one will see them sobbing uncontrollably when they’re crushed. The truth is, human emotions are messy, but they’re an essential part of life, and receiving hurtful news isn’t any less painful when it’s delivered in black and white Geneva font.
The convenience that digital communication affords can be great – but it can also provide a haven for people too cowardly to deal with the bulls**t of daily life in meaningful ways. When my boyfriend told me he didn’t think we were working in a GChat message, it made me question how much I had meant to him in the first place, considering he found it so easy to write me off in a couple of instantly delivered sentences. It also made me question his character, and ultimately helped me to realize that a man capable of curtailing a serious relationship in a way that so blatantly dishonored the time we spent together made it pretty that he was not ultimately the dude for me. Christ, he managed to make that infamous “Sex and the City” Post-It note breakup seem heartfelt by comparison!
By the same token, an employer that chooses to send out a mass email to a stable of hard-working people who had devoted considerable time and energy to their jobs was indicative of a managerial style that had a lot more wrong with it than simply rude internet etiquette.
Do I sound bitter? Well, I am. Rejection stings no matter how it’s conveyed, but for me, the faceless, cold vehicle of the internet only served to make a painful situation unbearable. I know that seeing my ex or my former boss face-to-face wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but being able to witness another human being grappling with the difficult task of severing ties, whatever their reasoning, would have softened the blow.
So the next time you feel like taking the easy way out with a kiss-off email or a passive-aggressive status message, try to connect with your inner Emily Post and rise above. Take it from someone who’s been on the receiving end of a string of crap digital encounters.
Make a phone call, schedule a tête-à-tête, hell, just break out the good stationary and put all those useless 4th grade penmanship lessons to good use. Your karma will thank you!