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razor's edge

Rant and Purge E-mail

by p.l. frank

Imagine someone you barely know telling you to your face, "You’re a real moron, you know that?". No? Can’t imagine this happening? Ok. How about you picking up the telephone, calling your boss, and asking him if he has his head up his ass? Can you picture that scenario playing out? Probably not.

But picture this....someone sending these same little gems via e-mail. Uh-huh. Now that you can picture. And why is that? Because nowadays email has become the weapon of choice for people everywhere. People who used to understand boundaries, who used to control their temper. People who used to save their acting out for their family. These days people who would not dare say such things in-person or even on the telephone, feel free to hit the "send" button and ship their little gifts to unsuspecting recipients without so much as a thought.

Why is it that e-mail rants and purges are so rampant these days? One possibility is that the internet has become the high-tech, modern-day version of the automobile. Too many people forget they are "in public" when they are inside their cars, treating the rest of us to sights of nose-picking, teeth-cleaning, screaming matches with their kids or partners, and a host of other ugly behaviors better left for the privacy of one’s home.

This may just be the case with what is happening on-line these days. Perhaps too many people have the illusion that they can say anything they want in e-mail because they feel safe, anonymous or buffered, in much the same way some of them feel when they're in their cars.

Amazingly, however, this is not just happening with strangers. Far too often people are shooting off mean-spirited, nasty or wacky little messages to people they know. To coworkers, colleagues, friends, relatives, and even bosses. What’s even more amazing is that these folks are usually proud of what they have done. Oftentimes, even showing-off their "accomplishments" by sending cc's to their friends and acquaintances.

Last week a colleague of mine received the following e-mail concerning a column he had written: "Could your political beliefs be anymore asinine? Why don’t you and all of your supporters hold a big rally at the convention center so we can blow you all up. Everybody would be happy. Probably even your wife. I hope your dog dies of liver cancer."

The lunatic signed his name. He works two floors below the person he sent it to....there promises to be some interesting elevator rides in the months to come.

On second thought, maybe we should let the e-mail ranting and purging go on. It may just help spur the process of natural selection along.


b i o
P.L. Frank enjoys writing both nonfiction social satire and funny, thought-provoking novels.  Dr. Frank has been a researcher in the field of Behavioral and Social Sciences since 1983, and has worked as a university professor and therapist. 

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