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March 26, 2020
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How to annoy people with email

Digital Africa

Do you send and receive emails? If you do, you’re in good company. According to the Radicati Group, specialising in Technology Market Research, you’re one of about 3.7 billion users worldwide, with over 6 billion email accounts, sending something like 270 billion emails every day – that’s more than 1 million every second. And the numbers are growing. If we’re going to keep using email, it’s vital we understand how to exploit its strengths and weaknesses. So here’s a quick guide to how you can annoy other people using email.

Firstly, send email on impulse – don’t stop to think. That way, something else can occur to you after clicking ‘send’, enabling you to write another few emails full of PS-es. Instead of 1, you can send 5! Impulsive emails are a great idea, too, if someone annoys you, or you simply got out of bed the wrong side. Thoughtlessness can create all sorts of havoc that takes ages to unpick. Leave the subject blank or put something meaningless like ‘Hi’. Then they’ll have no idea what it’s about and have to open it to find out if it requires attention.

Next, write long, meandering sentences in lengthy paragraphs, making sure you never really get to the point. Then, a few lines from the end, ask an important question, but follow it up with more meandering. Bearing in mind that you can’t include vocal or facial expression, include sarcasm and humour that is ambiguous when read on screen. You know you’re only joking!

If you need a quick answer to a question, send an email, and follow it up with another one every 10 minutes if the person doesn’t reply. This is particularly important if you both have access to telephones, and even better if you’re sitting in the same room where you might be tempted to talk to each other.

Make your questions vague and imprecise, and with perseverance you can start an email ‘conversation’ that lasts for days and runs to a dozen or more messages. This is much better than using the telephone or a collaborative application to work with your colleagues. When you notice an email you have received was sent to several people, use the ‘Reply to All’ feature and send your reply or comments to everyone, regardless of whether it might be relevant to them. You can waste a huge amount of people’s time this way – if your message takes 5 minutes to read (remember the meandering sentences) and it goes to 12 people, that’s an hour’s worth of time you’re managing to waste!

And finally, think of the environment. Phys.org calculate that each short email puts about 5g carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, when you take into account running the equipment needed to store and transmit messages. Do your bit, and you can increase global temperatures all by yourself! Follow these guidelines on a daily basis, and in no time at all you could end up being the most annoying person in your circle of friends and work colleagues.

Mike Dunn, University of York.

This article is republished from a free Future Learn online course on Digital Welbeing

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