Email Will Save Us

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In 2009, I was working for a museum exhibit design firm in Santa Fe. Google Wave had just launched (what even is that?), and the iPad was just around the corner. The future of technology was bright.

My boss was very excited about Google Wave, because it promised to replace email and allow us to collaborate online with our remote colleagues and clients. It was a real “the future is now” moment. There was even some way to virtually “wave” at someone, although I can’t remember what that entailed or why you would want to do that.

The only problem was that everyone hated Google Wave, and then, as now, no one really understood what it was. We all went back to sending each other emails.

In certain ways, our relationship with technology is very different now than it was ten years ago. We love it and hate it more deeply. But you don’t need a blog post to tell you how technology has changed in ten years. This post is about one thing that has barely changed at all since the early days of the Internet: email. How thrilling! Yes. It is the great equalizer and protector of democracy, I’m pretty sure.

If you stop and think about it, email is a dinosaur. So many modes of digital communication have sprung up since the invention of email, and many of them, like Google Wave, have promised to make email obsolete. But none of them have, and I hope that none of them will. Why?

Email is the only form of digital messaging that doesn’t rely on everyone selling their soul to the same corporate overlord, e.g., Mark Zuckerberg. I have come to appreciate this fact so much more since starting a business. Instagram, my poison of choice, has been a great tool for developing my brand and finding my people, but it has always felt precarious. Instagram can suddenly change their algorithm (as they have done already) to hide posts from small fry feeds in favor of those with larger followings. Or everyone could get sick of it and the whole thing could go out of business, and take me down with it! Do I really want to stake my whole business on the fate of a social media platform that people grumble about more and more every day?

Last year, I became a follower of Sarah Ryhanen of Saipua. Sarah is a floral designer and stylist, who, up until a few months ago, had a large Instagram following and a feed that was somehow gorgeously aspirational and also raw and honest. Her account was hacked, and she lost all of her followers. Perhaps there is a way she could regain them, but she decided she was done. She wrote an excellent blog post about her decision (shoutout to Clear Black Flowers for bringing my attention to this), and just how challenging it is, as a small business, to depend on social media so dearly while also watching it betray you at every turn.

So, email. If you want to support a small business, give them your email address. It’s a way of saying, “I’m with you. No matter what happens with Google Wave, or Instagram, or the mind-controlled social media platform of the future, you can always just send me an email to let me know what you’re up to.”

Instead of letting your inbox become a wasteland of corporate promotions and reminders to open apps in case you forgot, consider unsubscribing from what you don’t care about and subscribing to what you do. When it comes to your inbox, you control the feed (well, except for work email. Do not unsubscribe from your boss.) I feel I must share that I currently have nearly seven thousand unread emails, so this suggestion is still an aspirational one for me. But surely it can be done!

And, while you’re at it, tell your friends about businesses you care about and think they might like too. I really hope it’s still possible to grow a business through genuine connection and word of mouth, because the whole targeted ad thing feels gross and honestly too confusing for me to want to figure out anyway.

Finally, if you didn’t see my last post, baby’s going to Italy. For four months! It’s a whole thing. I will be sharing more about that experience on the blog, and of course will send you an email each time I have a new post. If you’re not signed up to receive emails from me yet, see below.

Oh, and! As I mentioned in my last post, I will be winding down the studio in a few weeks in preparation for moving to Italy (wtf), so if you have had your eye on something in the shop, now is the time. I’m not sure what things will look like when I return, because I will need to find a new studio space and get up and running again, likely with different designs. Ok, bye!

Margaret HennesseyComment