Let’s face it: email is the bane of all of our existences. Every day there are new emails, glowing white in our soulless inboxes, that require mundane responses. The only thing worse than receiving emails when you don’t want them is not receiving emails when you do want them. Having to be alert to my emails is a small price to pay for all of the other luxuries of the digital age, but it’s one that will never cease to inspire ennui in me.
The one aspect of email that I enjoy, however, is the blunders. You know, the emails meant for one recipient that the senders accidentally (or on purpose) send to a whole listserv. Without further ado, here are five emails I definitely didn’t need to receive during my time at Swarthmore, but I’m glad I did.
1. On January 29, 2019, Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Terhune sent an email to Director of Public Safety Mike Hill reassuring him that the awareness bulletin looked good. Mike Hill had sent the original email on October 30, meaning that Jim Terhune both waited an entire three months to respond and then accidentally sent the affirmation to all faculty, staff, and students. Honestly, we’ve all been there. There’s only a certain number of times you can use any plausible explanation whatsoever for not having responded to an email before you just give up and admit you can’t keep up with a barrage of messages in your inbox every day.
2. One frustration I’m sure many Swarthmore students experience is that once you take CS21 to fulfill your NSEP requirement, you can never make it off of the email list. Never. (I mean, you can email someone, but who has the mental energy for that? It’s a trap.) Though it’s been nearly three years since I received this email, it stands out in my memory as emblematic of the bloated, mostly useless amount of emails we receive. If you’re looking for an earring, by the way, there may still be one in the department office.
3. Both Timothy and the entire class of 2022 received an email on September 3, 2021, during which Director of Dining Services Linda McDougall asked Timothy if he could use this. The subject line was “” and the email contained no attachment, only vibes. It’s likely that the mystery will never be solved; what was “this”? And why did Timothy need to use it? I lie awake in bed every night wondering if we will ever have an answer.
4. This email, though it was born out of both immense consideration for others’ feelings and carelessness when hitting reply all in response to a massive listserv, resonated with me deeply. I honestly didn’t think twice when I was added to an email directly instead of BCC’d. I did, however, accept the deepest apologies for this negligible blunder because of the sincerity that comes across even through so little text. If you’re somewhere out there reading this, dear sender, just know you are forgiven and can now live in peace.
5. As we all know very well by now, many things changed beyond recognition during the COVID semesters. The amount of joy on campus was perhaps at an all-time low, with every normal aspect of campus life, like attending classes and going to Sharples, suddenly either ripped away or modified to the extreme. One aspect of life that remained the same, however, was the email blunders.
I honestly can’t explain the joy I felt when I received this email from a Swattie who just wanted an OSE chair, and instead of privately articulating it to OSE, shouted into the void that is the inbox of every student on campus at the time. Nature was healing.
Let’s face it: most emails are inhuman, soulless, and bleak. Though some may view email blunders as annoying clutter, to me they’re emblematic of the only humanity in my horrible little inbox. After all, what’s more human than making mistakes? Actually, scratch that — what’s more human than hitting reply all and then feeling a deep burning shame in your soul years after everyone else has forgotten?