Saturday, February 24, 2007
The Tragic Problem Of Email Addiction
Here is an amusing article about Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD). This is a dependence on email so profound that some addicts get upset if they don't get a response to their emails in two minutes, while others will spend more time when they're away on vacation checking their email than seeing the sites. Tragic. I am myself quite addicted, so I know all too well the ravages of this particular malady. It is unfortunate that most email is scarcely worth the trouble. Businesses claim that they are losing "zillions" of dollars in man hours spent sending and receiving emails, and that is no doubt the truth. But corporate culture itself becomes more a part of the problem than the solution when it inundates the inboxes of employees and managers alike with cc'ed emails of questionable relevance, and encourages employees seated just yards apart to email each other rather than get up and talk face to face.
The article includes an anecdote about "CrackBerry addicts" - American workers so enslaved by the BlackBerries issued to them by their employers that they are suing their companies for ruining their lives. It also describes the plight of a British banker "pitifully grateful" for a BlackBerry that enabled his employers to tack on two extra hours to his already 14-hour day by allowing him to conduct email both to and from work on his long commute. As for another UK BlackBerry addict, "his exaperated wife hurled his wretched gadget out of the window, but this merely sent him shinning down a pipe to retrieve it. He returned cradling it as if it had narrowly survived a plane crash."
What to do? Some companies have instituted "No Email" days, but in case your employers are not taking your addiction seriously, here are "12 steps to recovery":
1) Admit that email has you by the gonads, and resist the urge to check your inbox every ten minutes.
2) Keep your inbox as empty as possible.
3) Segregate emails into folders where they can be disposed of in an organized fashion.
4) Give your folders sensible and descriptive names.
5) Deal quickly with emails "that can be handled in two minutes", but "create a file for" (or folderize) emails requiring more thought before responding.
6) Set dates on which to clean out your inbox, and a set time in which to complete the task.
7) Turn off automatic send/receive. (Presumably this would be more appropriate for broadband customers who are online continuously. Such is not my problem.)
8) Set aside a particular time of day to review email.
9) Seek help from others with your addiction.
10) Reduce the amount of email you get. (Spamblockers will help with this no doubt. So would the misanthropic approach of limiting the number of your email acquaintances.)
11) Restrict emails to specific individual topics. Delete what I would call the "reply trail" in email responses or forwardings. (This is especially important when you're responding to an ongoing discussion on a message board or public mailing list.)
12) Rejoice in your measured and vigilant new approach to the email scourge.
Hmm... Me, I'm waiting for the TV show Intervention to tackle the heart-breaking issue of "email addiction".
"Are you an email addict?" from The Telegraph (UK)