I've got quite a few problems in my life, as do we all.
But what sets off a special fear in me is when I get a message from Apple Mail on my MacBook Pro laptop saying something like, "Unable to connect to Gmail. Username or password not recognized."
Sometimes the problem is easily fixed by restarting my computer. But a few days ago it was a waking nightmare.
Nothing had changed with my Gmail account. I'd simply shut the lid on my laptop, as I do every night before I go to bed, then flipped it open in the morning, as I also always do.
I tried reentering my Gmail password. No luck. I tried shutting down my MacBook Pro, then restarting it. No luck.
Weirdly, I could send messages in Apple Mail, but wasn't able to receive any emails. So obviously Apple Mail could connect with Gmail for sending. Gmail also was working fine on my iPhone and iPad, so the account log-in information clearly was still valid.
I decided to download Mimestream, a third party email program for the Mac that was free in its beta version. It worked fine with my Gmail account. That told me the problem was with Apple Mail.
After Googling "Apple Mail problem with Gmail" and seeing a bunch of articles that claimed to describe easy ways to fix a problem, yet actually were quite complicated, I decided to hold off on trying to fix my problem by, say, deleting my current Gmail account and adding a new one.
I didn't want to make a bad situation worse by doing something wrong.
In the course of looking at my email accounts in Apple Mail, I noted that in addition to the Gmail POP account that wasn't working properly, I had a Gmail IMAP account. My bright idea was to activate the IMAP account and deactivate the POP account.
(I don't really know the difference between POP and IMAP, aside from the fact that supposedly IMAP is best when you have several devices, since POP deletes messages after being downloaded. But I've had no problem getting email on my MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPad even though I mostly use my MacBook for email and that had a POP account until recently.)
After finding a missing setting for a Gmail IMAP account, I was able to receive emails again on my laptop. Yay!
My excitement lessened, though, when I noticed that Apple Mail was saying "downloading 40,000 messages", I think it was. Apparently switching from POP to IMAP caused previous received emails to be treated as new emails.
Actually that 40,000 figure was way too low. I ended up with a gigantic trove of emails in my inbox going back to 2008, which may have been when I signed up for Gmail.
The past couple of days I've been reviewing the emails for May and June, since I hadn't replied to all of the messages that I wanted to. I've also been deleting a year's worth of emails each morning. I recall that 2008 and 2009 had about 14,000 emails each.
So I must have gotten several hundred thousand old emails downloaded to Apple Mail, given that 14 years worth, or thereabouts, came in after switching to IMAP.
That's a scarily large amount, especially considering that I'm just an individual, not a business. One reason I get so many is that I have three blogs. I get an email whenever someone leaves a comment on a blog post, which is several dozen times a day, at least.
It was decidedly weird to scroll through the (seemingly) endless emails I'd gotten from 2008 to the present in the course of selecting them to be deleted. This was like a time machine of sorts, reminding me of days long past and what I was doing back then.
A poignant moment came when I noticed emails from my sister and brother-in-law, who died soon after each other in 2009 and 2010. I thought of re-reading them, but decided not to.
What struck me about the near-panic I felt when Apple Mail stopped receiving emails, and the relief I felt when messages started flowing again into my inbox, is how dependent I and so many others have gotten on email.
For most of my life communications happened in-person, by phone, via the mail, or occasionally through a telegram. (Remember those? You won't unless you're pretty damn old.) Somehow we survived those times.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with my current dependence on email, and secondarily on text messages. As technology changes, so do the ways we communicate with each other. I just was shocked at how many emails I'd received since 2008.