Have you ever watched someone repeatedly do something over and over again even though it didn’t do what he thought it did? Like in The Princess Bride when Vizzini kept saying things were inconceivable even though those very things had already in fact happened and thus, could not by any definition of the word be considered inconceivable? Have you ever seen that to happen in real life? For the most part, I think it never happens (evolution kinda prevents it, long term speaking and all) but there is one event, one thing that is so horrifically misused that reams of Internet bits have been spewed forth about its misuse and still, the despicable behavior lives on, in apparent infamy.
It must be a sign of my impending descent into senility and general all around crotchetyness but people who hit reply to all when in fact they shouldn’t be hitting reply to all at all cause me a great deal of consternation. I spent a full 20 minutes today trying to figure out what in the world makes people do this thing, this reply to all with a single word that can’t possibly be intended for everyone. Seriously. I sat there, trying to explain a behavior that is inexplicable (mmm smells like irony). I’m losing it. Do they need validation that they exist (“Look, I’m alive!”)? Is it more sinister (“I’m more important than everyone else on the email chain!”)? Is it less sinister (“There’s a Reply button?!?”)? I asked these questions over and over for 20 full minutes. And I’m writing a 500 word blog post about it. I AM losing it.
Look, email is almost rendered useless as it is. I used to write long, wonderfully explicit emails regarding best practices and processes and gotchas until I realized that email is probably irrevocably broken, not to mention requires entirely too much attention for the average person to spend in one sitting these days. Not unlike my blog posts.
However, you can do your part to make email useful again. It’s really easy. If you have a habit of hitting reply to all when you really ought to be hitting reply, take a deep breath, have a sip of scotch or coffee or arsenic and ask yourself if what you are about to say is really worth the 5 seconds of my life (and every other persons’ life on the email chain, hey I’m a hedonistic utilitarian if nothing else) that I’ll never get back after I read your email that I made the mistake of thinking might be important. It’s the least you can do.
[This post is written in honor of my friend, Nish, the world’s worst offender of the Reply To All button though in her defense, what she usually has to say is relevant to the conversation at hand.]