Last night I was having dinner with a colleague. At one point during the meal, when we were talking about something work-related, we both apologetically pulled out our iPhones and started thumbing away at the keyboards.
We weren’t being rude — at least, we weren’t trying to be. We were just sending emails to ourselves so we could be sure to remember something that we had been discussing. Otherwise, there was a pretty good chance that, by the end of the meal, that great (or even just marginally significant) thought — whatever it was — would have totally fled the jurisdiction, and we would both be racking our brains later trying to remember what it was we were supposed to remember.
These are the moments for which the “email selfie” — shall we call it the “elfie”? — is made. You just pull out your iPhone, call up your own email address, tap in a few cryptic words sufficient to remind yourself of whatever it is you want to remember, and hit send. A second later you get that satisfying, confirming phone vibration that tells you that you’ve received your email selfie, and you can continue whatever it is you’re doing with a brain unburdened by the need to remember whatever it is you’re trying to remember. It’s a liberating feeling.
At first, I was kind of embarrassed by my need to resort to the email selfie. Now I prefer to think that, rather than a leading indicator of declining mental faculties, it’s more a technological upgrade of the reminder note concept that people have used since the ancient Egyptians invented papyrus for that specific purpose. Whether it’s post-it notes, “to-do” lists, Franklin Day Planners, erase boards on the refrigerator at home, or little slips of paper left in a place where you know you’re going to see them (another technique I’ve frequently employed), human beings have long employed memory aids. Sending emails to yourself is the logical next step. And sure, you could use the “notes” function on the iPhone, but I’ve never used it — whereas I always check my emails. Sending the email selfie is a surer route to recollection.
These days, I’m one of my most faithful correspondents.