It was perhaps 10 years ago. I got a mail saying I have an invite from something called ‘Gmail’ to open a new account. These invites were treasured. There were only a 100 given to each person and you had to be a real close pal before the person would accede to sending you one.
Of course, we didn’t know about test groups, collecting personal data and marketing strategies then. The world of internet was in its nascent stages. It was simply cool to have this.
I’m trying hard to remember how Gmail looked then. I simply cannot remember, or gmail hasn’t changed that much. Of course, they integrated their chat into the mail, leaving its competitors Yahoo and Hotmail in the dust. And there was that awesome search feature, with a conversation style mail chain that drove me nuts.
Being used to mailboxes with limited space, you felt compelled to clean out your inbox everyday. The inbox figure had to read (0) with no bold items. There would probably be two mails on your screen on any given day. And then comes Gmail, with all the mails, right there in your face. People like me suffered. But like everything else, we got used to it. We even got used to the ads that were being thrown up every now and then, even if we did have strong discussions about how someone was reading our mail.
Then came Facebook, who prodded you to share more information and photographs and slowly made us think it was okay to share our crazy birthday photos with the entire world. Privacy was a word they did not want you to hear.
It was about then that I began thinking about the word ‘privacy’. Who were these people who would post ads for that book I was thinking about reading? They claimed Amazon was offering a discount on it. Who were these people who were suggesting I read about the French President’s latest antics? Were they reading my mail? Were they listening to my chats? Were they following me?
Yes, this was a wonderful time for paranoid people and the ones with OCD to be alive.
But we got used to that too. We got used to seeing 150 mails in our spam folder every day. We learnt not to break open a bottle of champagne anytime we got a mail from Nigeria.
Today, when I look at my multiple email IDs, where much of the mail is all about newsletters I’ve signed up for and offers from a site I visited months ago, I wonder about the state of communication.
It is perhaps understandable that one gets overwhelmed by the sheer amount of junk in our lives. If we unsubscribed from all those newsletters we never read, if we mark everything else as spam except for official and personal mails, what do we have left? 5 emails a day?
Even as a person who needs to be constantly connected, I get overwhelmed with the number of platforms we are juggling. Facebook, Gmail, Skype, Whatsapp, Calls and text messages. I’m sure I’ve forgotten… oh yes, LinkedIn, Twitter.
And perhaps there is someone sitting out there thinking of how to ‘integrate’ all this into one platform. Except, that is no longer simple due to registered corporations, shareholders, advertisers and revenue policies.
Somehow, this is supposed to be making my life easier. Supposed to be helping me connect better. Instead, all it does is create the image of little green men running around in my head muttering about things I couldn’t care less about.
And now I hear there are more things coming up.
A friend asked me to sign up for 500px. Flickr is dying and this is the new future, he claimed.
Another asked me to sign up for Pinterest. Forget about del.i.cious and all those things. This is where you find everything you want, she said.
Another asked me to log into FourSquare. We can catch up if we are ever in the same area.
But maybe my curiosity is dying or I’m getting old.
I absolutely do not want to remember one more password.