Longing for the days of email rudeness

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Boy, is technology making us ruder. It all started with email.

You see, long before the era of nasty Facebook posts and mean tweets — long before people had such an easy means to be rude to each other — there was a much tamer version of email rudeness.

Let me share an email incident I experienced firsthand in 1999.

Having just moved to Washington, D.C., I joined a large writer’s organization, hoping to meet other writers — or, to be more precise, WOMEN writers.

I got permission from the writer’s organization to send a happy-hour invitation to all of its members on its email broadcast list or “listserv.” This was how groups of people communicated electronically before websites and social media were common.

About 40 writers attended the first happy-hour gathering — one that would turn out to be the last.

As it went, one woman there was particularly attractive. I soon found myself in competition with another writer fellow, who was also trying to win the lass’s attention.

She soon made it clear that she had zero interest in either of us knuckleheads, and that she came only to discuss the writing craft.

Soon after she landed her blow, the other fellow and I quickly realized the pickings were otherwise slim — and also that some women writers came to meet men.

One woman, a large woman of overpowering verbosity, soon had us pinned up against the bar. For the rest of the evening, she shoved a dozen opinions at us on every subject under the sun. It was the first time in my life I was happy to hear the words “last call.”

The next morning, I got an e-mail from the other fellow. He thanked me for organizing the event, then said, “and for goodness sakes, for the next happy hour, don’t invite any more loud, large, obnoxious women!”

I was surprised by the rudeness of the fellow’s e-mail. That should have been the end of it. But it was just the beginning.

You see, instead of e-mailing his response only to me, he unwittingly sent it to all of the members of the writer’s organization, some of whom, much to his poor luck, were also large women of overpowering verbosity.

I don’t know how many e-mail responses came that day, but the number surely topped 100. The storyline was quickly established: Our heroine, who was so viciously attacked, did nothing to deserve such abuse and, incidentally, it’s typical of misogynistic men to feel threatened by intelligent women.

As for our male villain, he was dubbed an idiotic male rogue. He should not only apologize, but he should resign from the writer’s organization, give up writing, and move to another city, where, hopefully, something bad would happen to him.

Well, that incident happened well before smartphones and social media gave people license to become increasingly rude to each other.

According to the journal of Computers in Human Behavior, these technologies give us an anonymity that enables us to post things we’d never say to another human in person.

Psychology Today says that a simple “lack of eye contact” is what is driving increasingly nasty tweets and posts, making rudeness in our society “our new normal.”

Today’s growing social-media incivility makes me long for the good old days of email rudeness, when you could only offend a couple hundred people at a time.

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at TomPurcell.com. Email him at [email protected].

Find Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos of his dog, Thurber, at TomPurcell.com. Email him at [email protected].