Speaking of Mailstroms, today’s NYT has a nice article on email…(Got 2 extra hours for your email?). One cause of the stress surrounding email is its uncertain role in our culture. In the beginning of the telephone, people didn’t know what to call for and it took generations to make the change from calling for emergencies, to reaching out to touch someone, to walking around with a cellphone implanted in your ear. One of my old design professors, a brit, said he still cringes when the phone rings as, in his generation, phone calls meant only bad news.
Email is in its cultural infancy and there’s little common understanding of the when, why, how of using it. Especially at work:
“We are all addicted to it on some level,” [one woman] said of e-mail. “There is a fear that if you don’t check e-mail, you are missing something major. If you don’t answer it right away, you look incompetent; you are not competing properly. Your client, your customer, your boss will move on to the next person. That is stressful.”
But it is clear email is taking up too much time–a burden of the ease of networking. As one executive says: “By the time I got done triaging the e-mail, I didn’t have energy to do the rest of the work.” Maybe that explains the decline in television viewership.
I remember similar sentiments coming up with instant messenger years ago. That has somewhat sorted itself out–I just ignored those messages from people who insisted on interrupting my work to say something that could have been better sent in an email and didn’t really need to be answered right at that moment. Over time, without a response, they just went away… And now Ifind others ignoring me sometimes… 🙂
Seems to me the same thing will happen with email, or is happening. I don’t care to wade through all the garbage, and I’ve noticed as well that others aren’t responding to emails the way they used to–we’re all just tired of it, and my feelings aren’t hurt anymore when someone doesn’t respond because I figure they, like me, are just overloaded.
So, a society addicted to busy-ness, not able to be strategic and thoughtful, caught up in the “thick of thin things”–what is likely to happen? My guess is some kind of catastrophe (natural or economic) that comes will be the result of our not looking carefully at the right things, and then it will bring us back to the realities of life…
Oh, and I forgot to mention cell phones. Heaven forbid that we might actually have to plan in advance, or be careful of someone else’s time…. No, let’s just call them every five minutes to ask some little something, since whatever is on our mind is the most important thing, right?