Sunday, February 24, 2013

!High Importance

Have you ever received an email with this warning alongside – and therefore almost immediately assumed that it isn’t? Of “!High Importance”, that is. Because the chances are, it isn’t. This is just one example of the hyperbole that seems to pervade internet communication. Perhaps “hyperbole” is not the right word; or, at least, is not general enough. There is a kind of absurd, overblown intensity on the internet. Another expression of this is the “field asterisk” – this field MUST be filled in. Another is password paranoia. Every web page has to have a password: it has to be this long, with some of this, some of that, and a dash of Tabasco sauce. You receive an ominous warning if the password is weak. All so that you can enter some online store that you will never waste your time on again. Yesterday, to access something, I had to provide a “strong” password, three “security” questions, and two email addresses.

Then there are the “bot” checkers. Are you a real person? they ask. Just type in these “words” in the space below. It’s clear that I am not a real person, because sometimes I can barely read these words. Paranoid Twits use “true validation” to prove that I have flesh and blood. Really, why the f... hell would I care if I am following a spammer on Twitter. Most of what is tweeted by non-spammers looks suspiciously like spam anyway; and any “genuine” spam will soon vanish down the timeline, unread along with most of the rest.

Let’s just say – to avoid further hyperbole – that it all seems just a little over the top. Some of the procedures needed to prevent spam or fraud are far more irritating and time consuming than the spam or fraud itself would be. And do some of these sites really have the right to insist on my home phone number, my mobile phone number, my address, my shoe size? I am inclined, if I can get away with it, to use (obviously) phony information for these questions. They usually don’t need to know.

And, if you really want me to hit delete as soon as I see an email message, just mark it:

!High Importance.

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