With the onslaught of an e-mail culture breathing down the neck of the telephone era, the transition of the evils of telemarketing from phones to e-mail was inevitable. Junk e-mail is rampant, from known and wholly unknown sources. Personally, I have been rather fortunate with my Georgetown e-mail account, taking care not to expose my address to pointless corporate dumping. However, the lowest and dirtiest of e-mail etiquette offenses occurred last week, and I was not alone as a victim.

Our old pals at the MBNA Career Education Center decided it was time for the monthly, weekly and/or daily posting of crap that gets dumped off onto some list of which I happen to be a member. I do not know if I was placed on this list as a senior, a student in the College or for having made the heinous error of setting foot into the den of hell itself in order to attend the 100 percent useless “Jobs 401” session. (I thought the whole erecruiting.com deal looked appealing – once again proving that appearances are often deceiving.)

Normally, the doses of nothingness that end up in my inbox courtesy of the unseemly cast of career center characters boast some program that is coming up that supposedly has my name written all over it.

In reality, the message has my actual name nowhere on it. It starts with the friendliest of greetings, my full first name, Joseph. Unless you are my 10th grade English teacher or one of my grandmothers (none of whom work at the career center, to my knowledge), there is no reason for you to address me as Joseph. No one who knows me calls me Joseph. And therein lies the problem.

Of course, I am not so ignorant as to picture some career center drone typing out thousands of personal e-mails. I can recognize the handiwork of database-driven trickery when I see it. And normally, believe it or not, I do not fault the career center folks for this blatant touch of impersonality when they are doling out the specifics for an upcoming program or resume drop. Personally, I feel that an e-mail that does not include my name at all would be more appropriate, but I have a feeling they went to the trouble of including that field in the message out of an attempt to personalize an otherwise impersonal announcement.

The bigger problem occurs when I have stumbled past the introduction, and the armchair inspiration begins. Before hammering out the details of where and when one may sell his or her soul, many career center messages lead off with a few paragraphs of motivational drivel encouraging its recipient to stay positive, smile and not worry about the impending doom of unemployment that awaits in June.

This would be a fine message … from a person I know or have even met. However, considering that the only person who I have spoken to in the career center talked to me for all of five minutes before he had to cut our “meeting” short in order to do something more important, there is no one in any position to offer me any uninvited motivational message.

Last week, this miserable situation somehow got worse. In a message dated Thursday, Feb. 8, sent at 12:43 a.m., Derrick Dortch, an assistant director at the career center, took a big step backwards from an already precarious position. Rather than leading off with my full first name, the e-mail began addressed to my Social Security number.

I have a big problem with this.

Technically, I suppose it only represents a small glitch or user error. Someone selected the wrong field to include as the introduction, and my Social Security number showed up instead of my full first name.

I am not going to pretend to have the technical background to discuss the error in terms of a security risk, but I have a feeling that it is not a good policy to toss a large group’s Social Security numbers out through the Web by a means of communication as potentially insecure as e-mail.

From a symbolic standpoint, the message could not have been more ironic. After the wholly inappropriate and completely impersonal introduction using my Social Security number, the message rambles on for a paragraph with quasi-personal nuances:

“… How are you doing this semester? I hope all is well and classes are going just fine. I know that you are busy with school and other activities but make sure you take time for yourself. … Live each moment to the fullest. … In everything strive for excellence and always put your best foot forward. Well enough of my motivation talk.”

I could not agree more with that last part. In fact, I have had more than enough.

At this point, the message turns to its originally intended function of informing me of upcoming events. It then finishes with the caring closing:

“Listen, take care of yourself and make sure you come by the career center and visit us sometime. We are here for you and want to make sure you find the career that is for you.”

Maybe I will stop by sometime. I will be the guy who introduces himself by his Social Security number, slaps down a copy of this edition of The Hoya opened to this page and asks you to remove him from the miserable list.

Just Looking appears on Tuesdays in The Hoya.

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