Everyday E-mails

In the 1998 romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail, the heroine, Kathleen, gasps with anticipation when the mailbox icon pops up on her computer screen, announcing a new message from an anonymous online love interest. Ironically, the man sending the messages, Joe, is a business competitor Kathleen can’t stand in person. The movie’s plot, which now seems rather quaint, depends on the contrast between the way Kathleen and Joe come across through their e-mails and the way they appear to each other in “real life.”

Today, the film’s premise has lost its novelty; with e-mails flooding our inboxes, few of us jump for joy every time we hear a notification chime. And many of us now spend so much time online that we’ve become desensitized ...

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