Saturday, April 28, 2012

Is email evil?

That intriguing question comes via this article in BBC--Future.

For the most part, the piece is written from the point of view of a corporate drone of one form or another.  Someone who must contend with an incessant influx of emails, each one seemingly more inane than the other.  Here's an excerpt from the article:

"Email is free and instant, so there’s no reason not to send it in vast quantities – and, just to be on the safe side, to copy everyone into every message, and to cover your own back by double-checking every step of a process in written electronic form. Email doesn’t want you to make autonomous decisions, to delegate, or to switch off: it wants you to turn everything into typed words and queries, copied to everyone. It doesn’t want you to make phone calls or attend meetings, either: the preference is for endlessly reduplicated words and attachments."

To my way of thinking, that's just fine...especially that part that reads "doesn't want you to make phone calls or attend meetings."  That has made my life significantly easier but more on that in a moment.

I can understand how if someone has a job where the flow of incoming email is significant and must all be attended to, it might leave you very strained to say the least.  This is magnified by the fact that our work emails can now be routed to our smart phones wherever we may be, whether we're on the clock or not.  There are work cultures out there that don't care if you are home eat dinner or off on vacation and sitting in a littoral sun chair.  That email must be answered no matter what.  This would be maddening for me and I offer thanks that I don't live or work that way.

At the same time, however, I cannot imagine my life without email.  While I wouldn't go so far as to categorize myself as a cyberpunk, I have been around computers since elementary school and I have been using email since 1988.  I am also not an especially social person.  Email has allowed me to reach out and communicate with others and not feel the drain and strain of interpersonal relations.  Social media has opened up even more opportunities for me.  As a writer, I can market myself to far greater effect than I ever could through that oh so 19th century way of sitting at a table in a bookstore or conference, trying to hawk books.  I'm also quite pleased to live in a time where a phone call or a visit is beginning to seem more and more like an intrusion upon someone if that individual has not been texted or emailed first.

So if email is a pox upon your life...and I can certainly see how it could have my sympathy.  But I think I'll keep it just the same.

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