Emotional Emailing and other text-driven tragedies

Hi, my name is Shannon, and I am an Emotional Emailer.

(That wasn’t so hard. Good practice for my support group.)

I came to this realization last night as I was typing away on my computer. I was exchanging emails with someone that I’ve been upset with, and something about the tone of an email I received threw me off. Now, the important thing to note here is that what we were emailing about was completely separate from what I was upset by, and hence should not have set me off at all. But it did, and I was overcome by an overwhelming urge to fire back a diatribe listing exactly how I felt about absolutely everything in my life, from how the situation had affected my enjoyment of my morning cereal to its moral impact on my life goals.

As I began to type furiously, two little figures appeared on my shoulders. (Metaphorically. I’m not insane, yet.) “Go for it! Let it all out! You’re going to feel sooooooooooooooooo goooooooooooooooooood,” said the little devil-Shannon.

“Uh. This is probably a really bad idea. What exactly do you hope to get from this? It’s not like they’ll say anything that will make you feel better,” countered the little angel-Shannon.

These two figments of my imagination made me stop suddenly and come to this realization: I am an Emotional Emailer.

What is an Emotional Emailer, you ask? Let me back up a little. I have an intense fear and dread of confrontation. I’m not really sure why, but I will avoid fights and arguments like they are the plague. If anybody even slightly raises their voice – bam! I am a puddle of tears and my brain floats away to go visit its fellow brains in Hawaii, only to return when I am have been thoroughly beaten in the argument. I think it’s because I dislike upsetting people, so for some reason I’d rather upset myself and just not say anything. Alternately, I’m just a wimp, which is also plausible.

Regardless, I am extremely incoherent when upset, and this is where emotional emailing comes in. When some people are angry, they yell – I write. I naturally think much better on paper than when speaking, and so when I am upset I tend to spew my worries into emails. This leads to me sending long, angst-ridden, soul-searching messages that encompass my miseries and anxieties about absolutely everything. They usually happen when I really want to say something but I know that if I try to speak it all I’ll never make it through. So instead, I write out everything, rewrite it until I am convinced it is as perfect as I can make it, and send it off into cyberspace.

As I thought about it more, I realized that this happens with texts, too – or anything really that is written rather than spoken. It made me think about how easy it is for us to avoid face-to-face contact when handling issues…and it also made me think about how the written word is not always interpreted as it was meant to be interpreted. I’m sure I’ve sent emails or texts that somebody took entirely the wrong way because I never realized that I was coming across in a way that I didn’t mean. Tone is hard in an email – somebody who is actually sad may sound happy, somebody who is happy may sound sad, somebody may sound angry when they’re not – and so it can be difficult to read a person’s emotional state from their words on a computer screen, or in your phone inbox.

I’m not saying that writing things out can’t be good. Trust me, I am a huge fan of writing things out. I suppose I just thought about it a lot last night and realized that just as there is a time and a place to say things, there is a time and a place to write things, and writing when you are extremely sad or angry is probably not the best way to go. Just because it’s written, doesn’t mean that it’s any worse than calling up that person and screeching into their ear. Its status as an email or a text doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have the same impact as saying something in person – and it doesn’t mean that you should have more license to send out these rants whenever you want. Communication is communication, no matter what form.

So I finally listened to the little angel-Shannon and made a decision – that it was definitely not the right time to unleash my inner monster in an email to this person. Also, as you can see, I somehow transformed that Emotional Email that I was going to send into this long rant of a blog post. Um. I guess it had to come out somewhere.

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