Monday, May 07, 2007


More On Email Addiction

I've linked to articles about email issues before - including email addiction - and here is another one. It's worth chuckling about and shaking one's head over, as it does contain some inarguable truths. Email makes us feel important. Yes, indeed - it certainly does. It also makes you look important. My wife, who shared my email account for a while, used to boast to friends about the volume of emails I was receiving - until I admitted sheepishly that I was on the mailing lists of a couple of message boards, and got CC'ed on everything anyone said to anyone else. Much as we may dislike email for dragging us into "work mode" while we're on vacation, we may still check our email when we're out of town anyway - just to stay in touch with our social network. When my wife and I were in Scotland three years ago, I ran down to the hotel lobby every night and chucked pound after pound into a coin-operated web connection just to see what the news was from home - or, rather, from my cyber-home, as many of my correspondents were actually in the UK. (Not that I would ever visit them in person, of course...)

One writer calls email a "silent corporate cancer" that eats away time. According to behavioral scientists, it takes the human mind about 4 minutes to recover from an interruption. If you're at work, and you check (let alone respond to) emails 30 times a day, that's 120 minutes lost to the limbo of interrupted focus. The same author suggests cleaning out your inbox every time you're in there. Um-hmm. As Slate says, emptying your inbox is "like hacking off a limb." Some indulge in the perfunctory effort of deleting a few choice emails out of their inboxes every now and then, an ineffectual sort of pruning referred to as "e-noodling." I plead guilty here.

How else to get rid of email? Having a secretary handle the email is one way - if you have a secretary. But we're not bosses here, are we, folks? Another way is to declare "e-mail bankrupcy", which is when you email all your correspondents, telling them not to expect responses from any previous emails, and to start fresh, as if you've never corresponded with them before. Now bankruptcy is a concept American workers are familiar with...

"The Email Addict" from Slate

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