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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Listserv Survival Guide

DTH Photo Illustration. A student reads emails from the ROML Listserv on her laptop.

We all have our own fight or flight response when we sense danger. Some prefer to run at the first warning sign, while others stick it out and clench their fists. This instinct is as innately human as it gets. 

All of history has proven, time and time again, that the two Fs are wired into our brains as intricately as a COMP 110 class. But I’d like to introduce a third reaction to the kind of danger that only Outlook email services can supply. 

When thousands of UNC students accidentally get emailed an Outlook listserv chain, some fight, some take flight and some respond “take me out of this.” 

Let’s back up a little. 

For those of you who don’t know about the listserv emails I’m referring to, consider yourselves lucky. The chain emails began my first year. I remember the day vividly — I was sitting in my Morrison dorm room, absentmindedly reorganizing my hand sanitizer and disposable mask collection, when all of a sudden I heard a familiar noise.

“Ping.” And then again. “Ping.” “Ping.” “Ping.” “Ping.”

At a loss for words, I ran over to my laptop and clicked on my email. It was at this moment that I understood the true power Pavlov had over his dog. Without even realizing it, my body had been classically conditioned to respond to Outlook’s chime, and the little red dot next to the blue icon instantly filled my armpits with sweat and my heart with anticipation.

But instead of reading a job offer from a high-paying internship or the (no bueno) result of my last Spanish test, I found myself squinting at email after email of what looked like straight gibberish.

“Why am I on this?” one inquisitive student pondered to his 8,000 peers.

“Please take me off. I don’t want to receive these emails,” another implored desperately.

Some took a more threatening approach. “I will report your emails,” one public policy student typed, her fingers buzzing with the anticipation of finally delivering liberty and justice for all.

But it was to no avail. The emails came in massive waves, moving faster than a first-year near the burrito bowl station at 5:01 p.m. in Lenoir. The golden rule of “ask three friends before asking the teacher” seemingly didn’t apply, as everyone had a question they felt the need to share with the class. Others basked in the glory of it all, sending memes or taking the opportunity to make a deez nuts joke. 

I scrolled in awe, not wanting to believe how flawed we are — as both humans and students. Instead of taking the logical route and simply not clicking “reply all” on an email chain of thousands of students, my peers felt the need to send their frustration on a one-way, non-refundable trip to all of our inboxes. 

Don’t they realize they’re just making the problem worse? I wanted to scream but found that my voice was lost over the roar of Outlook. 

“PING.” Am I going insane? “PING.” Is it normal to feel this angry over a listserv? “PING.” “PING.” “PING.” Please God, how do I make it stop?

Outlook followed me into my dreams that night. I was standing outside my room talking to the cute boy from down the hall. I made a joke about our RA, and he opened his mouth to laugh, but an unsettlingly familiar noise came out instead.

“Ping,” he chuckled, his pupils suddenly far too round and the same color red as the new mail notification. I woke up screaming and shaking from head to toe. Without hesitating, I grabbed my laptop and ran to the dumpster, ready to throw it in — anything just to stop the influx of emails into my inbox and madness into my psyche. 

Just as I was about to let go of my $1,000 MacBook Air, I was struck by an idea. Sure, I could always click “ignore conversation” and immediately send all chain emails to my junk folder, but I had an even better idea. Something no one else had thought of before. With reinvigorated fervor, I opened my laptop and typed out those 10 fateful words. The only words that could end this once and for all. The words that could put me out of my misery.

“Hey, can you please take me off this email? Thanks!”


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