Goodbye my sometime friend. We had (mostly) good times.
I have a lot of appreciation for the punk-genius-billionaire-CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. I saw The Social Network five times, and three of those times I left believing that Mark had shown those uppity Harvard clones just what American meritocracy is all about. The other two times, I ended up just feeling sorry for the Indian guy, who got the worst deal of them all: his ideas were stolen and he wasn't anywhere near as tall as the Winklevoss twins.
Well, it looks like the man who didn't "get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies," has taken on yet another foe: E-mail. In what media sources from Huffington Post to my twelve-year-old cousin's technology blog are calling the latest Facebook coup, Zuckerberg announced that his empire will soon roll out their own "seamless," faster messaging service. Throwing political correctness to the wind, Zuckerberg disparaged e-mail as "slow," and spoke of a de-cluttered future characterized by single threads and better message filtering. Let's just say, those thinly veiled digs at Hotmail cut deep. I like Facebook, but I loved e-mail first.
No doubt this proposed new system is exciting. Facebook's greatest minds have imagined the future of online messaging as free and informal, more like a conversation. Their system collapses all kinds of mediums -- text, chat, etc -- into one. It's like e-mail is the stuffy old Victorian lady of the Internet, and Facebook's dynamic "Social Inbox" is her harlot of a grand-niece who goes gallivanting around town with men and shows off her ankles. The "Social Inbox" could be revolutionary, the penny-farthing bicycle of twenty-first century communication.
Maybe Facebook's take on the next generation of online communication will be even greater than they promise. Maybe they'll finally figure out how to download thoughts directly from my brain, edit them for age appropriateness and syntax, and send them directly to the brain of my recipient. Just like I suggested in the unanswered e-mail I sent them last month.
But in all the forward-thinking excitement, Zuckerberg forgot to pay any homage to e-mail, to recognize that the classic service was once really important. For one, it inspired that other movie about online love and friendship, the classic Tom Hanks vehicle, You've Got Mail. Not to mention that I got some of the best news of my life via e-mail. Remember when I won that $100,000 bond from the down-and-out man in Nigeria? Or when I almost won that free cruise, and and all I had to do was fill out a twenty-hour survey? That all happened because of e-mail!
In this world of technological change, perhaps I'm feeling a bit nostalgic for the bygone days of dial-up. I remember I'd spend hours listening to the heavy Darth Vader-like static and beeps of our desktop's modem, hoping those sounds meant I'd have a connection strong enough to download the new version of Snood.
E-mail marked the beginning of my presence in the online world. It was my gateway to great things. It was an event, much like the "snail mail" that pre-dated it. I'd look forward all day to my designated twenty minutes of online time, just to see if anyone had sent me a chain e-mail-- you know the kind of friendly message you'd get that you had to send immediately to ten other girls otherwise you'd be branded "a huge loser" or "ugly for life" or something.
I remember once a horribly mean e-mail went around my middle school. It was a supremely derivative insult list ("Alex is fat," "Peter is a four eyes," "Jennifer is a Clay-Aiken look-alike"). I was devastated because I wasn't even on it, and the anonymous author had included almost every other kid on the quiz bowl team. Those are the kinds of meaningful experiences that I'm afraid all kids may miss out on, in a world without e-mail.
For better or worse, the Internet is moving away from my e-mail as we knew it. Perhaps this eulogy is premature. But if it isn't, I want you to know, e-mail, that I don't regret a thing. Except maybe that time I hit "Reply-all," when I meant to...oh, nevermind. What's past is past.
E-mail, you are gone too soon, another victim of the cut-throat world of Internet technology.