It is so hard to imagine a life with no text messaging or emails, where you could just get the point across without having to interrupt someone or be interrupted. But then, what are we really doing that is more important than talking to a real live person who is genuinely spending the same amount of energy and time to reach out to me? It’s so easy for this paranoia to segue into self-centered guilt.
I can tell you that phone calls give me anxiety. Essentially, when you call someone, you’re asking them to stop whatever they are doing and to pay attention to you. And that goes for someone calling me. Sometimes I will just stare at the incoming call and rehearse what I will say if they ask me to lunch, spontaneously, or if they are calling to ask for a ride or tell me something important, maybe something long-winded. What excuse will I have to make up to hang up and go back to living my life? And then what if you’re calling someone, and they ignore your call? Does that mean that you’re less important than the task at hand? I’m paranoid of interrupting someone, but even more scared of being brushed off. Then there comes the smalltalk formalities that have to happen before you get to the real reason you’re calling. “Hi, how are you? Fine, how are you?” etc. etc.
Apparently, Joanne McNeil conducted a case study that examines the neurosis that comes with feigning enthusiasm or responses to deflect attention. The Emotional Labor extension is a browser extension that takes your Gmail message and injects automated emotion into it, so you don’t have to worry about sounding insincere or having your recipient read too far into your feelings.
The Emotional Labor email extension looks fake. That’s the point. I wanted to reveal my exhaustion, my fatigue in needing to attend to so much correspondence. Until there is an emoticon for “Things are kind of not great but I don’t want to disturb you let’s just pretend things are fine,” that’s the grey area where this project resides. I made this to reveal the friction in my indecisiveness — how many xs do I normally sign off — one, two, three?
Now, if only she could develop an extension for answering phone calls. When someone tells me about their newborn baby, how do I express the emoji “kissing face, baby head, yellow heart”? When really my emotion is closer to that of the “pile of poop” emoji?