I noticed this creepy new-ish thing. When I use my gmail account and am about to reply to an email, there are three responses along the bottom to choose from. Words in bubbles that can answer the email for me if I click on one.
For example, let’s say someone wrote to me, “Can you come to the meeting?” When I click “reply” three blue text bubbles sit patiently at the bottom, each with words like “Yes.” “No.” and “No, thanks.” The responses are usually pretty benign, but it feels offensive to me that they’re even there. As if I can’t come up with my own response.
It’s strange when they’re close guesses to what I want to write. It’s even stranger when one of them is exactly what’s in my head. It’s intrusive. I know it’s not a person reading the email to figure these likely responses out, but an algorithm is just as all-up-in-my-business.
My personal rebellion to this “feature” is even if I agree to what’s offered in one of the bubbles, I won’t click it. I’ll still type it out. Every letter of it. Typing out “Y-e-s-period” honors the question and the person who thought to ask. Typing it out gives me a necessary sense of ownership over what I say.
The more convenient communication gets with the help of technology, the less people might actually have to think about their words. Their intention. Their sense of holding up their end of a conversation. How their words effect someone else. The belief in themselves that they have the intelligence to put a word and punctuation together all on their own.
This topped it off, though. Today a friend wrote in an email, “How are you doing?” I went to reply and this is what sat at the bottom of the page:
Option 1.”I’m doing great!”
This is exclamation-point-level great. Now, if you ask “How are you doing?” and I email back “I’m doing great!” with nothing else, no explanation whatsoever, it expresses: “Something special is going on. Very special. It’s so special I don’t even have the time or desire to tell you anything about it.”
Option 2. “I’m good, how about you?”
If I choose “I’m good, how about you?” it fools you into thinking I’m courteous, but it’s passive aggressive. There’s no information, not much connection, and now you have to take your time answering my question about how you are. And you can’t choose that same button or we’ll know you’re auto-faking it like I did.
Option 3. “Good!”
This last one is an interesting offer. “Good!” It has the vivacious exclamation point but just misses because with no other words following it, it’s clear “I have absolutely no desire to continue this conversation.”
My biggest problem/laugh with this, is: Are these the only choices of how I might be doing? What about choices like “I’m overwhelmed!” “I’m having an existential crisis, how about you?” “Terrible!”
Don’t worry, I’m not terrible. Honestly, I don’t know how I’m doing in one word. There are hundreds of ways to be feeling and thousands of ways to be “doing” at any given moment, and each of us should be capable of answering this in our own personal words. Convenience doesn’t replace connection.
This kind of thing is for when you’re running late and someone you know sees you and calls, “How you doin'” and you yell back “I’m good!” This is for customer service calls when they say, “How are you?” and a “Fine, thanks,” suffices so you can get on with addressing your computer issue.
I do have to say I’m doing much better now that we’ve talked. (I hope that doesn’t become an option in a blue worded bubble. That would be weird.)