Oh Hotmail, you are truly the fairest of them all
For someone who now works almost solely on the internet I have very little love for the web.
That’s not to say I don’t appreciate its applications and implications, I just don’t care about, for lack of a better word, the internet as a culture. My feelings towards the internet are similar to those I have toward my gas stovetop: as long as I have it I don’t really care about what gas stovetop I have and I don’t think about what the gas stove does when I’m not cooking.
Yet when I received the ten year anniversary letter from Hotmail I was filled with an unexpected kind of nostalgia for the free email service.
“Thank you for using Hotmail for a decade. That’s right you may not know it, but it’s been over a decade since you registered your account.”
The email itself was a pretty unsubtle hint that I should be doing more with my Hotmail account than just receiving and sending emails: “Yo, you know this thing can do more the send the electronic mails gramps.” Probably, but I like the simplicity of the thing as is and ultimately that’s the secret to its success.
It occurred to me that there was no better record of my life in that period than on this database of emails that floats on the internet in a way I don’t understand.
At last count the inbox said there were 20,503 emails in that account. Over 20,000 emails that document over ten years (I think I registered it 1997) documenting the last years of high school, university, travel, relationships and a whole stack of pointless crap in between.
Perhaps I’m just an electronic version of one of those crazy women you see on Oprah who won’t throw anything away and becomes a prisoner of her own garbage, but if you’re anything like me just go back to page one of your hotmail account and have a look at the stuff you’ve kept.
There’s also a certain grace about the way Hotmail handles my hoarding, no motherly reminder that it’s time for a clean up, it just keeps on stacking them away.
If there is such a thing as the internet in 500 or 1000 years time, internet archaeologists would have few better sources of primary material than getting access to our hotmail accounts.
Besides being under the impression that this was a civilisation disproportionately obsessed with maintaining erections and increasing penis size, you’d be hard pressed to find a more honest window in to people’s lives in the early part of the 21st century.
So if there’s nostalgia for a time before the internet, perhaps there’s such a thing as nostalgia for the way the internet used to be.
Even the name of my Hotmail account, bloodyleo, has its roots in a high school impression I used to do of a teacher. If that sounds stupid it’s because it was, but you can’t change your Hotmail address after even a few years: too many people know it as email@example.com and that’s the way it’s going to stay.
Often your Hotmail account can turn into your primary point of contact, especially when overseas. Travelling in some genuinely poor places like India and East Timor it was always enjoyable swapping a Hotmail addresses with someone who, although they may never own a PC, similarly enjoy a Hotmail interaction.
There is a certain dorkiness associated with handing over ones Hotmail address in this era of social media boosted with photos and applications like steroids.
Facebook and Twitter are a little too showy and too brief for my affection. I’m half expecting Twitter to be supplanted by a new social media BURP, in which you have to express your current status in a single syllable:
“Yea check out my BURP status to see where I’m at. ‘Same!’. Wait is that one or two syllables?”
What’s really being lamented here is a decline in value of person-to-person interaction as opposed to a group or scene dynamic that internet communication increasingly fosters.
Will it be the case that before too long people who choose to use personal email addresses (hotmail, gmail or whatever) will be viewed as quaint anachronisms like those who still choose to send letters?
Perhaps not, but regardless I’m keeping my Hotmail account because it appears to be doing a better job at chronicling my life than I ever could.
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