Electronic mail is wonderful: it allows shy people to communicate without a phone; it is faster and cheaper (though less endearing) than old-fashioned letters; it is a great way to locate old friends; so on and so forth. However, with each new medium of communication comes new variances of human behavior. These behavioral types have become rather commonplace within the last 10 years. Call them the Emailers:
- The Non-writer. To be honest, this person has existed since the days of the Pony Express. You write them. They never reply. And yet you run into them at parties and work, and they say hello and chat with you, leaving you to wonder, "Do they just never reply to email?" Common courtesy, it seems, is not for everyone.
- The Spammer. The spammer often never sends personal emails to friends, or responds to same. However, they still have time to forward copious amounts of lame jokes, virus alerts, and useless petitions on to you. Imagine what it would be like if someone were like this in person. You would kill them.
- The Selective Respondent. At least this emailer graces you with the courtesy of a reply. However, it's often a somewhat puny missive, even when you yourself send them a massive tome. You write 10 paragraphs, ask them 20 or 30 pertinent questions, and they respond with a simple "Sounds great!"
- The Running Commentator. When responding to your email, this person has to quote your entire message and insert his or her own comments on literally every sentence you wrote. Often even interrupting you in the middle of a sentence.
- The Smiley. I have had to resort to the occasional "text smiley" once in a while just to remind sensitive friends that my sometimes sarcastic comments are usually meant only in jest. But some people use the infernal 🙂 as though their lives depended on it. A nervous habit? The need to please? Or an overabundance of actual happiness? One can only wonder. But here's a hint: the more smileys a writer uses, the more likely they spend a lot of time in chatrooms. Be suspicious of an abundance of LOLs (Laughing-Out-Loud). A single ROFL (Rolling-On-Floor-Laughing) is a dead giveaway. I have never seen anybody literally rolling on the floor laughing about anything that was said in any email ever.
- The Over-Reactor. This is the person for whom the smiley was invented. Anybody can be this person on a bad day, as the sterility of email can make innocuous comments seem cold, even cruel. You say: "It was nice seeing you the other day. You look very healthy these days." They respond: "You're probably wondering why it took me so long to write you back. Well it's because I was really insulted by what you said. I look 'healthy'? Does that mean you think I normally look sick? You could have told me in a nicer way. I don't know if I can even be friends with you now." God help you.
- The Twilight Zoner. This is me sometimes: somebody who takes anywhere from 6 months to a year to respond to an email, then tries to pick up the conversation right where it left off (after apologizing for the delay). The giveaway is a subject line like "Re: Happy 1999!"
- Speedy. On a good day, this is me too: the person who replies within minutes of getting your email. Fast and responsive: everybody likes that! Well, to a degree. Some people keep it up, and you soon realize that they have nothing else to do with their time. Uh oh! This makes you feel annoyed, guilty, or both. My tip: unless a speedy reply is needed (lunch plans, house on fire, etc.), allow an appropriate "courtesy pause" before replying.
- The Last Worder. In an email volley, this person always has to send the final message – not out of oneupmanship, necessarily; perhaps simply out of overwhelming politeness. They are known for saying "You're welcome!" or "Great!" or "See you then!" The only recourse you have is to be silently grateful, delete, and move on.