I purchased a new laptop last week. The old one is still working, but it is slow and I’ve always had trouble with its dodgy space bar. That’s not the main reason, however; my partner and I are off on an adventure in late May and I plan to share my reflections on the new sights, experiences and different climes we’ll experience. The old laptop is too heavy to cart across the planet, hence the recent purchase.
I’m a baby boomer but I know my way around most of my computer’s settings. I’m also reasonably skilled in problem solving (aka ‘trouble shooting’), mostly with the help of Google and YouTube. Is there no question these two sites can’t answer? I decided, therefore, I’d configure the new laptop myself. I didn’t want to bother my eldest son, my youngest son is off with his wife on their adventure and my partner is not, shall I say, as confident with computers as I am. I therefore cheerfully launched into setting up my little laptop, thinking it would take, at the most, a day or two.
That was a week ago.
Scrivener and I handled the transition superbly. Dropbox likewise. My precious photographs were transposed safely (I saved them to a USB just to be sure) and my word processing package seemed to settle into its new home with its numerous files intact. Facebook … well, Facebook is Facebook. Like water, it seeps into the tightest of crevices. And if you’re reading this then the WordPress platform also handled the shift well.
And then there was the email. It should have been simple. I felt I did my part: I planned my approach; I saved important emails; I followed the instructions, but to no avail. I’ve spent the last four days grappling with the beast that is my ‘personal information manager’ while my blog and other writing has languished.
I decided to pay a visit to my old laptop this morning, to check my email. One hundred and ninety five emails were downloading, the very emails I managed to head off on the new laptop. Yes, dear reader, I faced down an email tsunami, one I somehow caused but had no idea how I’d done so. Naturally, I did what every semiskilled computer user does; I panicked, shut the old laptop down and disabled the email platform on the new laptop. It’s obvious now that I need a son (or two) to help me undo whatever I’ve done. In the meantime, I can check emails on the Internet. And my phone. And my iPad.
The point of this post is not my wounded Boomer pride but the irony of the situation. I am a born communicator who failed to set up a simple communication network. I don’t venture into the world and talk to actual human beings as much as I used to and I certainly don’t teach communication skills any more; I connect to the world through emails. I love writing emails, more often little stories tolerated, for the most part, by my friends. I have turned some of these missives into blog posts. But even though I can still communicate with the outside world, maybe it’s time to reflect on my relationship to my emails. I believe the real problem is not that I enjoy communicating via email, it’s the volume of email traffic that swamps my computer, emails I organise under cunningly named labels so I can locate and read them later. The other problem is, as well as my WordPress subscriptions, I subscribe to several (to tell the truth, dozens), of literary and writing websites. I suspect I accrue the equivalent of three large book’s worth of emails to read each week. Of course I can’t keep up; I simply file an email under its label and tell myself I get back to it one day.
Maybe the Email Goddess is trying to tell me something. Is it time to unsubscribe, yet again, from a few sites? Should I delete emails from before (and after) 2013? Will I ever read them? And yet, as I sorted, prior to the email deluge, through my old emails, I found some interesting stuff: notes concerning my PhD research that I’d forgotten I had; early photographs of my precious granddaughter; emails to and from my partner when we were courting; emails to my children and three emails from my father, written just before he died. Among the polluted polynya that is my email cache, there are a few gems I’d like to scoop up and put to good use if possible.
If it’s not possible, I have to accept that a part of my life is undergoing a thorough purge. But before I do that I’ll call my son and ask when he can visit me and work out what I’ve done and how to fix it.
How confident are you with managing your computer? Do you receive dozens of emails a week that you never read? Have you found old gems among your email or other files?