Remember when you set up your first email address? You spent three weeks thinking of the perfect name, and another three weeks mourning when you discovered that email@example.com had already been taken by some douche who probably doesn’t even know who Professor Hugo Strange is. You finally settled upon a name and password, cleverly lied to Hotmail and said you were 13 years old*, and next thing you knew, you had your very own email address. Hardly able to contain your excitement, you logged in immediately and – HOLY SHIT I HAVE AN EMAIL! Yes, it was just a message from Hotmail, congratulating you on your new Hotmail account that would characterize an era of unprofessionalism that would last well into your twenties, but it was still a thrilling experience.
In your first two weeks at college, any straggling remnants of the excitement of receiving emails will be mercilessly beat out of you with a metaphorical sock full of nickels.
It’s sad, really. In our lives, our attitudes toward emails make a gradual transition from “YAY!” to “Okay, I guess,” to “Someone make it stop,” finally landing at “Fuck this, I’m not even going to read them anymore,” where it will hover patiently until your early seventies, when your attitude toward emails is galvanized by your subscription to a wide variety of porn websites.** We’d love to help you out by neutralizing some of your rapidly slipping attitudes toward emails with some tips on managing your email account during college.
Tip 1: Do NOT be tempted by free candy at the Activities Fair!
When you go to the Activities Fair during Welcome Week, there will be dozens of student groups using candy to vie for your attention. They will tell you that they have the best candy. They will tell you that they have the most candy. Their snakes will tell you that their candy is the candy of knowledge, and the groups won’t even apologize for the unceremonious presence of a snake in a room full of people. DO NOT TAKE THEIR CANDY BECAUSE THEY WILL MAKE YOU SIGN UP FOR THEIR LISTSERV FIRST. Take it from me — for the last three years, my inbox has been flooded with emails from the Hong Kong Student Association. The only things I know about Hong Kong are the things I learned in Rush Hour 2; the details and logistics for the HKSA Spring Formal are of no interest to me. One measly pack of two yellow Starburst*** was not worth the price of hundreds of unwanted emails.
Tip 2: When you join a student group, be prepared to receive a slew of emails every day on topics about which you give zero shits.
Of course, there is variation depending on the type of group. If it’s a volunteer group, you’ll probably just receive an email or two a week about volunteer opportunities. If it’s an a cappella group, you will receive no fewer than seven emails a day, discussing such captivating topics as “GUYS GUESS WHAT I GOT ON MY MIDTERM!!!” to “GUYS GUESS WHO I JUST RAN INTO AT NORBUCKS!!!” to “GUYS GUESS WHO I JUST HOOKED UP WITH AT THE DEUCE!!!” And invariably, there will be one person in the group who is completely unable to deal with all the emails. There is a 90% chance they will quit, a 65% chance they will transfer, and a 31% chance they will turn into a serial murderer.
Tip 3: Always read emails from university administration.
This is wise for two reasons. First of all, the administration sends emails to clue you in to important goings-on around campus and town. More importantly, though, the university often sends emails that are unknowingly hilarious. In recent years, (paraphrased) examples of these have included: “Hey guys, just a heads up that some dude was wanking in the gym shower today,” “Hey guys, let’s try to stop yelling the word ‘blowjob’ at the top of our lungs,” “Hey guys, it would be pretty racially insensitive of you to eat tacos tomorrow,” and the annual “Hey guys, if you could not make complete drunk asses of yourselves this weekend, that would be appreciated.” Some emails from the university are about stupid things like alumni or funding or sobriety, but it’s definitely worth reading them just for the gems that will grace your inbox a few times a year.
Tip 4: You will have at least one professor that makes your inbox into his personal sex slave. Don’t fight it. You can’t.
At Northwestern, there is a professor named Mark Witte. Of course, no one calls him that; he’s only referred to as You-Know-Who. He is infamous on campus because he has an enormous listserv to which he sends at least five emails a day. No one knows how his listserv came to include the emails of so many students, but it definitely involved selling his soul to Satan and venturing into the fires of Mount Doom. Every victim of Witte’s listserv receives these emails, which range from “Investment Banking Analyst Position Opening At Goldman Sachs” (because yeah, I’m totally gonna get that job) to “This Student Just Emailed Me And Said He Needs His Ass Scratched So Who Wants To Scratch It.” And to be honest, it’s pointless to try and resist. Listservs are black holes of anguish, and with professors like Mark Witte, you are simply on the wrong side of the Schwarzschild Radius****.
Tip 5: Always proofread emails and attached documents.
A good friend of mine has a hilarious story from freshman year. It’s a rather involved saga, but the basic gist is that she sent a paper to her TA that, unbeknownst to her, had been “edited” by her friend to include a lengthy diatribe on the relative merits of shrimp and blowjobs. So yeah. Maybe try to not let that happen. That being said, if it does happen, it will be an excellent story, especially if it involves sexual themes.
Tip 6: Never read an email from or relating to your dorm unless the words “free food” are in the subject line.
It’s just not worth it. Any e-mail you’ll get from your dorm will be either your CA telling you to come to a floor meeting (biggest waste of time you’ll find without attending an ASG meeting) or the annoying girl from the 3rd floor sending out a desperate email asking for a screwdriver so she can fix her shitty IKEA furniture and then do God knows what else with your poor screwdriver. But every so often, you’ll receive an email informing you that there is free food in the lounge. Those are the most important emails you receive in life.
Tip 7: Embrace the Unread Email.
We’re just going to level with you: between your parents discovering GIFs and your 85-year-old history professor sending you 300-page readings one scanned page at a time, you need to left some emails unread. Understandably, this can create some concern. The best strategy for curbing this concern is by finding exciting ways to appreciate and embrace your unread emails. One way to go about this is a game in which you manipulate your number of unread emails so the number always carries significance to you. Examples of these numbers might include your favorite number (17), your favorite activity (69), your favorite phone number to drunk dial (911), or your favorite historical figure’s birthday (3,151,767). If you’re a theater major, you might shoot for 24,601 (Jean Valjean’s prisoner number in Les Miserables). If you’re an engineer, you might shoot for 3.5 (the number of sexual encounters you will have before reaching the age of 40). If you’re a music major, you might shoot for 45,000 (the number of dollars you will make in your lifetime). Sadly, there’s a good chance you will actually receive 45,000 emails in the next four years.
We hope you find these tips helpful, but we recognize that there’s only so much we can do. The power of listservs is palpable on college campuses. You will inevitably acquire a burning contempt for all emails – we just hope to help ease the transition. Like the Dr. Jack Kevorkian of email management. You know.
*If we celebrate our 21st birthdays by binge-drinking, why don’t we celebrate our 13th birthday by binge-setting up email addresses?
**WHY DO PEOPLE PAY WHEN YOU CAN GET SO MUCH FOR FREEEEE
***Here’s how Starburst were created: God came up to Satan one day, and was like, “Hey bro, I just invented Starburst and they’re really great, I think people will really like them and I’d love your permission to file a patent,” and Satan was like, “Wow dude, these are really good, so good that I’m actually concerned this will bring too much joy in the world, so I think I’m going to create an indisputably inferior yellow flavor of Starburst then make that flavor comprise way more than its allotted 25% representation of the full Starburst portfolio in those cheap ass packages of 2 you get from the annoying soccer mom neighbors on Halloween,” and God’s like “Sure, why the Hell not, we both know I love me some good Schadenfreude from time to time,” and then they both laughed and everyone suffered.
****Does that make sense? I don’t really know if that makes sense.