Which E-mail Personality Type are YOU?

Forwards, spams, scams, notes from family and friends... It all ends up in our email Inboxes and we each have our own way of dealing with it.

So here at Of Cabbages and Kings, our diligent team of researchers... (okay, well, the Jane Austen bobblehead on my desk and I)

...have done an in-depth examination (spending a whole half hour)

...of the way Internet users approach email.

As a result of our exhaustive efforts (30 minutes, maybe 25)...

we have developed a wholly scientific and not at all overly-broad and archetypal list (lightning shoots down from the sky to strike me-- zot!)...

Of common personality types of today's e-mail communicators. Perhaps you know e-mailers whose style fits within these finely-tuned categories (off the top of my head)...

Or perhaps, like me, you're one of them yourself. We hope that you will share your experiences, so we can develop an even more precise (lightly tweaked) analysis in the future.

  • "The Serial Forwarder." Whatever email enters this person's Inbox is so funny, interesting, or important, the Serial Forwarder can't resist sending it to everyone in their email address book. This person tends to send these forwards in clusters, as they go through their own email. So recipients are often bombarded with correspondence over a short period of time. Serial Forwarders also skim and send email quickly, taking no time to remove the email addresses of every other person who has also forwarded the message. This means the message is either one within the other to infinity, like a Russian nesting doll, or you must scroll miles southward to see the message. Note: this is the same person unlikely to ever have sent you a letter, because "stamps are expensive these days.

  • "The Concerned Citizen." Similar to the Serial Forwarder in the penchant for passing along information, the Concerned Citizen tends to lean almost exclusively toward the Public Service aspects of e-mail forwarding. While this type is unlikely to send a hokey joke forward, they will ensure you (and all 300 of their closest friends) are aware that hook-handed men are breaking into cars in shopping malls to steal your kidneys. Concerned Citizens mean well, they really do, but would rather "play it safe" by forwarding, than by accidentally mistaking a real news story for an urban legend-- and then learning their friend or family member is dead and kidneyless. They don't know about Snopes.com.

  • "The Ingenue." No matter what spam or scam ends up in this person's email box, they will believe the offer is real. Nigerian diplomats wanting to let them in on a quick cash, winning the Greater Mesopotamian Lotto in spite of never entering it, photographs showing the sinking of the Titanic was all a fake, these good, trusting folks are ready to believe.

  • "The Enigma." This person rarely, if ever, gives context for why they're sending you the link or post that they e-mail. In some way, the piece has reminded them of you. And it is up to you to click and figure out just how it relates. A conversation you had three years ago? Something that may have happened in your local news? A story related to the former boyfriend of your cousin's ex-roommate? No summary, no inkling. Enigma's tend to require more time than other email personality types because the amount of time on your end for deciphering is inversely proportional to the amount of time it took them to write the message.

  • "The Loud Talker." This person has been smart and brave enough to make the leap to computers, but writes everything using capital letters. This could be because they aren't fully familiar with the keyboard yet, or because they think capital letters are easier to read. What they don't understand is that online, writing all in caps is considered shouting. Be very, very careful when you explain to Loud Talkers the online etiquette regarding capital letters. They have accomplished much by learning to go online, and tend to be sensitive about their skills. Any implication of inadvertent wrongdoing may be taken very personally. Loud Talkers have been known to bite.

  • "The Black Hole." This person has a valid email address, and knows how to operate their machine. But any e-mail you send them goes into the vast, matter-sucking void that is their Inbox, never to be seen again. An interesting aspect of The Black Hole is that this same person may contact you months or a year later, indicating they haven't heard from YOU in a while, as if you had neglected them.

  • "The Fountain." This person has a lot to say, and is not afraid to say it. Each email is a novella, encapsulating the smallest details of any particular event. This information is rarely broken up by paragraphs, making it almost impossible to weed through on-screen. The Fountain tends to send these to your work email, so you can get the latest news immediately. Not that you can read it.

  • "The Premature Sender." This person is still learning how to work the computer, and gets a bit over-excited about it. You never get a full email from them. Their communications die in mid-sentence because they clicked the mouse too soon. Expect a follow-up. Or three.

  • "The Second Opinion Forwarder." I fall into this category, I'm afraid. This is the person who sees something that fascinates them personally online, and it's not good enough that he or she has read it themselves. Oh, no!-- it has to be shared with SOMEONE-- whether or not the recipient actually cares about the topic much or not. The Second Opinion Forwarder is also the type of person who, in any crowd, will witness something that is shocking and ask companions, "Did you see THAT?" No one ever has.

  • "The Misinformation Avenger." This is the person who develops deep rage and frustration over the chaotic array of lies, inaccuracies and urban legends received from the Serial Forwarder, the Concerned Citizen and the Ingenue and feels it's his or her personal duty to use the email medium to try to disabuse these people of their notions and habits. The target of the Misinformation Avenger in these cases can range anywhere from mild acquaintances to dear old Mom. No one is exempt from their swift justice!

  • "The Generous Newbie." Generous Newbies have just discovered the wonders of the Internet, and they are prepared to share it with YOU no matter how long you've been online. They may not barrage you with links and posts like the Serial Forwarder, but the ones they send are just great, amazing, hysterical and "Must see!"-- and you have. About a thousand times. From every new Generous Newbie that's come along. Since about 1993.

Which personality types seem familiar to you? Science is demanding to know! (PS- Special thanks to Stoneman and Techfun for their invaluable input on the last two personality types. Cheers, guys!)

At Humor-blogs, they don't send you forwards expecting to see the Taco Bell dog magically appear once it's gone to 400 close friends.


techfun said...

I suspect I am a hybrid. Many people would think I fall in the Black Hole classification but others would know me as The Fountain.

In other words, I do not mail often, but when I do its often >500 words.

You also need a Curmudgeon category for those of us who smack down people who forward things without checking snopes.com or pass on insanely stupid and pointless messages.

Claire said...

I am the Black Hole Fountain, where is the 'Don't send me SHIT' category?

Oh I also suffer from Premature Sender syndrome occasionally :)

Alex Mcone said...

Hmm, I'm a second opinion fowarder too but very rarely. I make sure that the material is authentic before I do.

This was a great post. I particularly know of one Foountain ... whoo that was the heights.

kdawg68 said...

I'm a combo....part black hole (because I hate going through my in-box and deleting hundreds of spam items each day...not to mention I'm sometimes shockingly anti-social when avatars are not involved in communication), part second-opinion forwarder.

Of course, brevity is not my strongsuit either, so I'm sure many friends would identify me as a "fountain."

I do use paragraphs though...they are just really long paragraphs and sometimes don't have a traditional beginning, middle, and end. :)

Jenn Thorson said...

JD- Ah, yes-- you're quite right-- the email response smackdown. I will have to consider that. Thank you for contributing to our study. :)

Claire- wow, I'm starting to feel glad you and I primarily correspond through Shoutboxes and Twitter. :) I think your category would be Mixed Bag, or perhaps, Problem Child. We will consider this in our analysis.

Alex- thanks! Glad to meet another Second Opinion forwarder. :) I, too, try to keep it under control, but I know I probably annoy one of my friends. Thanks for stopping by!

KDawg- We will now all send you small pictures of ourselves with every email so you feel obligated to be social. :) Thank you for using paragraphs. Punctuation and formatting: good. No paragraphs: bad.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I don't fall into any of these, though I know them all. What about a category for the person who has dared to tell people to stop forwarding, including old army buddies and his own mother? Evil, pure evil, I guess.

Alice said...

Good Lord - my Mom fits into too many of those categories. The cap letters ESPECIALLY PISS ME OFF.
Great list!

techfun said...

Mark: I can't get my mother to stop but I have trained her to send anything technical or "too good to be true" on to me to verify before she passes it on to her entire address book.

techfun said...

Jenn: You need another type specifically for people who only got e-mail and Internet access after say... 2004. Its a small set but these people are completely oblivious to the fact that those of us who have been online forever have already seen almost any cute or funny website that they "discover" and we've already seen almost every funny mail forward they might send.

Oblivious Newbies are numerous in the rural South Florida and rural Kentucky parts of my family.

Jenn Thorson said...

I was about to say, Techfun, I think was on to something similar, with his Email Smackdown concept-- the person desperately trying to control the quantity of unnecessary email and thereby, offending the senders.

But to answer your question, yes, you are evil. :)

Alice- thanks a bunch. Yes, I think there's a good subset of Loud Talkers that are mom-types. I accidentally made a Loud Talker incredibly angry on a forum once because I mentioned that the caps are a little hard to read.

She sent me several private messages and did several public posts about how I'd demeaned her. I don't bring up caps anymore. :)

Jenn Thorson said...

Techfun- duly noted about the Oblivious Newbies. Excellent point!

Dukepro25 said...


Love it! :D

Is this blog new? :)

How clever. :D

Jenn Thorson said...

Yup, Duke, just about a month old-- and still keeping me up nights. :) (Actually it WAS, I was having some feed issues... :)

Marybeth said...

Jen, what catagory to you put the ones that only send ditties that have to be sent to 10 other friends and back to them for "good luck", "God's blessings", safety, money etc? I can delete now without retrieving item from delete because I feel guilty... yea for old age and I don't care attitude!! Mb

Jenn Thorson said...

Marybeth-- I might put them as a subcategory of the "Serial Forwarder," because the people who do this tend to do this often, and also have no problem expecting you to forward this on to everybody in the universe. These people are the same ones who would give you a chain letter in real life.

Bobbie said...

I'm a hybrid, too, but I have to mention that I used to be firmly in your "Second Opinion Forwarder" -- and that is what prompted me to get into news blogging. Now I just blogs stuff instead of jamming the inbox of everyone on my email list every day. :-D

Michele said...

That was too funny! Most of my friends seem to be black holes, but that might be because I tend to be a bit of a fountain sometimes. Although I do break up my emails into paragraphs for goodness sake. I also fall into the category of second opinion forwarder, possibly another reason why my friends are black holes...

Anonymous said...

I think i'm a part of the fountain + concerned citizen + loud talker, sometimes i do love to send people important mail, i hope those people never assume it as a spam...

And sometimes i used CAPITAL letters as an important matters such as ASAP, FYI, BYOB or SOB, WTF etc... hehehe...


ThriftShopRomantic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenn Thorson said...

Bobbie- I'm betting a LOT of Second Opinion Forwarders become bloggers! It's the only outlet where we can use our powers for Good. :)

Michele- Thank you for the paragraphs! Let's hear it for paragraphs! :)

Trisna- Thank you for posting and visiting!... (heh, just please never email me. :) The OCCASIONAL capital letters are okay, and even necessary... it's when your entire message is in caps, that's when things get hairy. :)

timethief said...

I hate, loathe and despise chain emails and joke emails. Those who do this to me just once will get a scathing response insisting that they never ever do it again. If they do then I blacklist their email address and remove their link (if there was one) from my Blogroll.

I tend to be a black hole if we have no personal relationship and the email has anything whatsoever to do with making money online.

I can be a fountain with those who I do know well, provided that they push the correct buttons. ;)

chyna said...

The Unbreakable Chain should be a type too. My dad is one of those, if it says don't break the chain, he sure won't. No matter how many times it has been sent to him and even though there are still the same amount of US eagles flapping at the bottom of the message.

I generally delete his messages. LOL

Jenn Thorson said...

TimeThief- yep, I hear ya. I'm a Black Hole myself when it comes to having those making money messages foisted on me. There's too many and they're not credible enough to spend time on.

Chyna- Heh, yes, I think your dad, as an Unbreakable Chain, is a subset of the Serial Forwarder.

And yep, with the Chains, I usually respond directly TO the person with a "Hey, how ya doing" sort of thing instead. Maybe they freak out that I'm breaking the chain, but also they know I'm not ignoring them. :)

Greg said...

Black Hole-Fountain-Misinformation Avenger here, I suspect, but with paragraphs, punctuation and the occasional bit of italics. (Jenn, what do you and Jane think? Is this almost accurate?)

The worst part about trying to avenge misinformation is that those Believe Everything They Forward Folks have the memory of a flea...all you have to do to trigger a complete memory wipe is show them the words "Mrs. Fields Cookie Recipe"...and its square one all over again!

When I do forward, I try to plan for the right demographic, and ALWAYS *(oops) delete that "you must send to ten friends" crap!

(And those emails from Africa telling me they want to give me all the money of the deceased person with no heirs? Well, sometimes I read them to see how creative they are, just for amusement...and to dream for a moment before I delete.)

Jenn Thorson said...

Greg- I haven't been on the end of any of your Misinformation Avenging, so I can't rightly say on that one. I can always read your emails-- the flow logically and use punctuation and sentence structure... So I don't think of you as a fountain. And you're always responsive to me.

Jane thinks you might be a bit of a Black Hole, though, as you've never answered any of HER emails. :)

Anonymous said...

Man o man, I have been the Misinformation Avenger on at least one or two occasions - one time it was regarding this hateful anti-immigration chain-mail that equated immigrants to ravenous and destructive birds overrunning someone's garden Hitchcock style. Ridiculous. I even blogged about it; I was steaming.

Unsurprisingly, the original sender was just nonplussed and thought I was the unreasonable one.

I think that the intention and reasoning of the Misinformation Avenger may be sound enough, yet his actions may still be open to ridicule. I think this is because the effort seems disproportionate to the reward. It is hard to persuade anyone of anything when they have an ego-investment in their position. If it is hard to persuade even stubborn friends of their errors, how much harder some remote email acquaintance?

Sometimes debating in earnest seems important and even heroic; at other times it seems futile... I've never quite figured out which it really is.

I think really, people learn to be wise then become intellectually self-sufficient. This 'self-sufficiency' includes the ability to listen to others with discernment and learn what there is to be learned. One who never learns to be wise will never benefit from good advice, nor from the rare occasions where he may admit defeat in an argument.

Foolish people will usually go on fighting to the bitter end and learn nothing.

Mind you, non-ideological factual errors are less troublesome to clear up, though even in these one can have an ego-investment.