Leeann's Letter: Snoozing Emails is a Scam
Happy Thursday! Today, our Editorial Director Leeann DelHoyo Duggan has deep feelings about the Gmail update and a maybe-nefarious new feature called "Snooze." Enjoy.
"Don't gamble on the future. Act now, without delay." — Simone de Beauvoir
THURSDAY, AUGUST 16
I am extremely shook over the new Gmail update, you guys.
The Gmail redesign has been available to try since it was announced back in April, and since its inescapable rollout to every inbox is coming soon, I decided last week, with much reluctance, to give it a try.
I am here to tell you that it is, unequivocally, a scam of the highest magnitude. And you should not fall for it.
Let me back up and admit that you could never call me an early adopter, unless you’re a fan of unsubtle sarcasm. I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 21. My first iPhone was the 5, which I kept until last year (and it’s still the best, don’t @ me with your Pop-Tart size phones). I keep laptops until I can’t hear over the fan.
That’s partly due to the sense of thrift — some might call it ‘cheapness’ or ‘poorness’ — instilled in me by my hardy, working class Western New York forebearers (ask me about my Grandma’s special drying line in the kitchen for used paper towels, or my mama’s patented system for steaming uncancelled stamps off letters). But it’s also due to the fact that each wave of new technology brings an increased intrusion on your real life — the one that involves meeting friends for dinner or walking in the park, while blissfully unaware of what your boss needs from you *right this second.* You know, the life you actually want to be living.
I literally just installed iMessage on my laptop last month (at the insistence of Abby, who needed a way to communicate with me during phone meetings, and thought I was insane for not having done this in 2007). I refuse to get desktop notifications of emails because I don’t want to have 50 tiny anxiety attacks per day.
It’s an age thing, too. I’m old enough to remember a time when receiving email was an exciting occurrence that happened maybe a few times a week,
...and phones were inert little bricks that operated on your bidding — not blinking, buzzing machines through which every person, business, boss, and dating app you’ve ever halfheartedly attempted screamed for your attention.
And the world was better then, I’m pretty sure. At least I seemed to need less Xanax.
So, now that I’ve given you a solid foundation in my personal get-off-my-lawniness, back to the new Gmail. It’s nicer to look at, I guess, in that clean, round-edged, “friendly” way that always reminds me of the useless safety scissors found in kindergarten classrooms. Visually it’s very similar to the recent Reddit update, which is all anyone on Reddit talks about anymore (I want them to go back to listing creepy things small children say!).
And there are some useful new features. For example, today I received a much-appreciated reminder to reply to my friend Laura’s email that I let languish among work to-dos for three days. Helping me reduce flakiness and maintain valued friendships — good call, Nü Gmail!
Another thing I like is there’s now a little right-rail next to your inbox, where you can access your Calendar, Tasks, or other frequently-used Gmail add-ons like DocuSign, in one click. This is a good thing because it’s visually unobtrusive, and saves me precious seconds I’d rather be using to play along at home to that Jamie Foxx game show based on the “Shazam” app.
But the most talked-about new feature is the one I hate the most: Snooze. Yes, you now have the option to “snooze” an email — that is, you receive an email, think “ugh, I can’t deal with this now,” hit the Snooze button, and choose a “more convenient” future time for that same email to pop back up at the top of your inbox.
Still unread, undealt with, but now slightly more urgent, and bearing the shameful stink of procrastination.
Did your palms just get a little sweaty? Did you have a brief dizzy spell, with visions of an inbox endlessly roiling with demands both new and old? Does it seem bonkers to you that anyone would email themselves the type of passive-aggressive messages you dread receiving from coworkers?
“Hey! Just checking in on this!! Wanted to make sure you saw!!! LMK if there’s a good reason why you’re pathologically incapable of doing your job!!!!”
If so, you’re right. Friends, this is nothing more than faux productivity of the highest order, and I urge you not to fall for it.
Snoozing emails might seem like a solution to an overwhelming inbox, but in fact it only compounds your busy-ness. It saves no time, and in fact it locks you into an endless cycle of thinking about, but never quite dealing with the same email, over and over, for a potential eternity. (This would surely be the 10th circle of hell if Dante Alighieri were a cool millennial dude and not a sweet Medieval poetbro.)
The concept of Snoozing emails isn’t new — a similar feature has been available via the Boomerang plug-in for years. But while Boomerang was limited to a self-selecting group of masochists willing to pay $60 per year to have the same emails boomerang back at them over and over (note to self: “Black Mirror” spec script?), the feature will now come standard on every Gmail account in the world, and thus the potential for heartache has increased manifold.
Like moving tasks from yesterday’s to-do list to today’s, when you snooze an email, you have already failed. To snooze an email is to borrow against your future sanity. And when that bill comes due, it’s going to suck.
So, what to do instead? Well, literally anything is better than Snooze.
Use the “touch once” method of inbox management — if an email can be answered in less than five minutes, do it now and be done with it. If you can get away with it, decide to only check your email morning, noon, and night, when you have time to read and deal with the tasks therein. Use Unroll.me — a brilliant service which scans your inbox for new mailing list subscriptions and offers you the option to Unsubscribe, or combine into a weekly digest. Mark shit as spam left, right, and center. Hell, I’m convinced that I could delete 20% of the emails in my inbox at random, and no one would ever notice.
Point is, don’t let Snooze lull you into the false sense that you’ve actually “dealt with” your inbox. Do what you can to actually tame that beast. To be a modern, employed human means being subservient to technology to some degree. But don’t let Gmail turn your inbox into a house of lies, an endless and ever-more-frantic loop of “I’ll get to this later!”
Remember: You Snooze, you lose.
Please note: The author will not respond to any scurrilous accusations that I’m old and out of touch. However, if you wish to respectfully rebut me, or defend the utility of the Snooze feature, you may reach me via the Comments below, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to the Editor on this topic may be published in a future edition.