I don’t talk to myself—most days.
The other day I found myself having a somewhat unreasonable venting session, in my own head, mind you, about my inbox. Not what you expected, right?
Yeah, I know. I sound like a crazy woman.
But hear me out: Google updated and my inbox got a facelift, man. It’s beautiful! It’s clean. It’s sleek. Hell, it’s chic. It looks like 2019 got here early because obviously, 2018 is outdated already.
I was the smitten kitten. I told my coworkers that I was sold. I loved it. No going back.
The honeymoon lasted three days.
On the third day, an email appeared at the top of my inbox that I had left at the bottom. It had moved. What the what? Not only that, but Google gave me a nice little reminder with it to reply to the message.
And by “nice” what I really mean is that they left a “freakin’ overstepping your helpfulness” mark on an email in my inbox.
The post-honeymoon phase really hit hard on day five—that’s when Google sends another reminder and moves your email, again.
I did (ironically) some Googling.
The company has this to say, “When your inbox is flooded with emails, some will inevitably slip through the cracks. Luckily, the new Gmail can help. It will now ‘nudge’ users to reply to emails they may have missed and to follow up on emails for which they haven’t received a response.”
Well, that’s nice.
No. Wait. I want to change my answer.
That’s just annoying. I’m not sure I like the idea of AI in my inbox. First, they started suggesting replies to use and now offer them as quick buttons at the bottom of every email. Now they’re suggesting not just how I should reply but also when I should reply.
At one point I was seeing enough reminders from Google in my inbox that my mental voice got a little loud and a lot whiny.
“Shut up, Google! I’m trying to be mindful!” is what flew through my mental airwaves.
Obviously, I was killin’ it with that mindful goal.
I don’t want my mindfulness practices taken over by artificial intelligence. I want to be present and focused and intentional as I work. I want to open an email, read that email, and respond to that email with intention and purpose. I want to know that for those few precious moments I was totally present with that task in my day.
To me, that’s part of a daily mindfulness practice. If we don’t keep some of those choices in our own hands, are we still being mindful? If we have our inboxes and apps and alarms reminding us of each moment of our lives, are we truly present? These are the questions I grapple with as I see the Google “nudges” appearing in my inbox.
Google hasn’t shut up yet. Those “nudges” are still on in my inbox, the suggested replies are still there at the bottom of each email, and my Google calendar is what organizes my crazy life.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to quiet the giant of the internet, but I do know that new and changing technology has the ability to help us honor the now in a way that has surprised me.
I believe that it’s not how you get to your mindful moments that matter, but rather the fact that you get there at all. I thought Google was road construction on a one-way street and I couldn’t see past the heavy machinery. I was wrong. It was a curveball thrown to make me recognize the importance of making our way back each day to those mindful moments.
So, thanks Google. Each time I see those little “nudges” in my inbox now I stop, and I take a moment to appreciate them. I still find them to be an example of “freakin’ overstepping your helpfulness,” but I’m choosing to use them for good, and hoping my sassy inner voice won’t start any more arguments in the meantime.
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