I generally use Mac Mail (.app) for most of my correspondence requirements, however I also have been known to correspond via the archaic handwritten letter or postcard method form time to time. However, when I am in my office, something about the VUW firewall or servers blocks my Gmail SMTP server, so I can’t send mail from my personal account. Often I will just use my VUW staff e-mail and gmail accounts interchangeably, however if I want to send e-mail from my gmail account while in my office, I must use the gmail web interface. I have actually spoken to University ITS about this and they seem to fix it so I can use the outgoing Gmail server for a day, and then it doesn’t work again the following day. So, I use gmail.com, which has recently undergone some kind of redesign. The gmail.com redesign doesn’t irritate me quite so much as the new version of Exchange Webmail, which I abhor yet am forced to use to check my University mail away from my laptop or iMac, however, there is one feature of the new gmail web interface which disquiets me.
Now, whenever I type an e-mail to, for example, my mother, or my sweetie, or my best pal, gmail suggests including several other people in the e-mail. I feel as if this is some kind of subliminal push from Google to end personal correspondence between two individuals. It’s as if Google is implying that sending a message to one individual person is a waste of time, that instead you should include 10 other people in your communication. While I suppose the engineers and whatnot at Google simply intended this feature to be a useful organisational tool for users of Gmail, I find it has disturbing implications for the future of personal correspondence. Gone are the days when it was normal to communicate with one person at a time, corresponding back and forth with sweet intimate letters like Vladimir and Véra Nabokov or Napoleon and Josephine. I can just imagine Napoleon logging into his gmail account, writing “Je reviens en trois jours, ne te laves pas” and gmail suggesting he include 20 of his closest buddies in the e-mail, and then sharing it on Twitter and Facebook and Google+ as well.
Poor Josephine would have been mortified. Or perhaps she would have been turned on? Who knows, maybe she was a narcissistic exhibitionist…not that I’m saying everybody who uses Twitter or Facebook is. But I think a certain expert did said something about these types of social networking tools as encouraging shallow interactions and dehumanizing communication. And now Gmail is also on the obsolescence of personal communication bandwagon as well.