You’ve seen the campaigns against texting and driving…
Texting and driving is worse than drinking and driving.
Not to mention those haunting images that make their way around Facebook of ‘the last text this man sent before he died.’
There’s good reason for all the propoganda. Texting and driving is dangerous, in an obvious way.
But what about email? Email probably won’t kill you, unless I’m severely underestimating it.
Instead, email destroys any life you thought you had by drowning you in a sea of unsolicited communication.
The problem with email is it’s indiscriminate. It doesn’t matter who you are, how busy you are, or whether you care to engage… if someone has your email address, they’re guaranteed to reach you.
As opposed to the telephone, where you can decide whether or not you want to pick up the phone. Even before caller ID you just didn’t pick up the phone when you were busy.
Then there’s the magic of real world communication. If you don’t want to see someone, you don’t go see them. On the other hand, if you actually want to talk to someone, you go talk to them.
But email breaks down all those barriers, and not in a good way. With your email address, anyone can reach you. Their message is guaranteed to be delivered. And a response is expected.
Regardless of whether the message is important, something you want to address, or from someone you want to interact with.
Think about how people interacted before mass communication. If you had to send a messenger with a scroll to deliver your message, you’d be a lot more discerning about which messages you send.
Or a telegram… translating that message into morse code is hard work, on both sides.
But those people got along just fine. Maybe even better. Because they weren’t preoccupied chatting about the latest designer beaver fur over morse. They were doing their work.
Why am I getting all bent out of shape over email?
Email is not the only culprit. Social media produces more than its fair share of distraction.
But email is particularly dangerous because when people check their email, they feel like they’re working. They feel like they’re being productive. They feel like they’re doing something important.
But the truth is, not only have they wasted their own time, they’ve wasted the time of the person who has to respond to, or at least read, their useless email.
It’s a never ending cycle. The more email that’s produced, the more it generates — exponentially (reply all). Before you know it, it’s time to call it a day and all you’ve done is respond to a number of arbitrary requests.
As I write this, my three-year old daughter is sitting beside me playing with her toy laptop. She presses one of the buttons and a voice responds saying “have you checked your email?”
The tyranny begins.
Flickr creative commons image via Bruno Girin.