Motivational emailers should get the message

First published in SMH June 22, 2004

Julie Ihle finds e-wisdom more exasperating than enlightening.

I’ve tried to ignore them. I’ve deleted them without reading, I’ve asked to be taken off the distribution list, all to no avail. The motivational email has a way of getting through.

It’s always the same people who send them. Some do it to prove how enlightened they are – maybe they just came back from a Deepak Chopra seminar, or maybe they’re simply feeling smug.

Others use motivational emails as a substitute for actual communication. So instead of phoning to say “I’ve escaped with my yoga therapist and am now living in a yurt in Uzbekistan”, they send an email like “Wisdom comes with age but sometimes age comes alone”.

There’s no evidence that the world, despite at least 250 inspirational emails being sent every second, is a better place. World peace is as likely as Steve Irwin appearing on Playschool. And there’s no evidence of any added motivation being injected into the world, if McDonald’s salad meals and Paris Hilton are anything to go by.

This is probably because motivational emails are the most annoying emails you can get. They’re patronising, self-righteous and full of fridge-magnet philosophy. And about as illuminating as watching My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance.

They have at least gone through a couple of different phases. Mr Smiley and his happy brand of annoying thoughts-for-the-day have vanished. And thank goodness the sexed-up PowerPoint slides featuring the same goofy labrador that stars in about 120 loo-paper commercials across the globe are no longer appearing with a thought bubble that says “Your aspirations are your possibilities”.

Although, ominously, Mr Smiley and the labrador have been replaced by droplets of Dalai Lama wisdom. These are surreptitious motivational emails posing as quirky personality tests that no one can resist, with such questions as “If you were an animal, what would you choose to be?” or “Which relative does the colour green remind you of?” And at the end of the test, all you discover is that you’re trusting and friendly, and your soul mate is a tortoise.

To make matters worse, the Dalai Lama email then instructs you to send it to 10 more people in a kindness e-chain.

It would be great if the authorities could kick up a stink on motivational emails along with child porn and emails from a Nigerian jail. Any email that features the words “forgiveness”, “wisdom”, “journey”, “authenticate” or “door to growth” should be outlawed. And the people who, as part of the kindness e-chain, send this rubbish should be forced to spend a week on a desert island with Anthony Robbins or Oprah, or possibly both.

Then it would be safe to open the inbox again, to be confronted only with spam, system errors, online bills and the occasional friend.

And then, perhaps, we will find ourselves living in the present and truly living the life we’ve always dreamed of. As a motivational email once said.


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