Friday, April 23, 2010

The Email Nuisance

I recently read an article on thirty practices that will change a person’s life for the better. I counted on my fingers, along with two friends, which are already a part of my life as I read them out loud. To my knowledge, there are only two that I’ve adopted since reading the article.

The first is drinking a glass of water immediately after waking up. I have a glass of water at my bedside when I go to sleep, and when I wake up there it is waiting to be consumed. My mornings are much better when I do this.

The other is checking my email twice a day. Anyone who has even the mildest presence on the internet will encounter this problem: “Why do I feel compelled to check my email every fifteen minutes?”

There are two solutions from where I sit.

The first is don’t treat it like a problem at all. Email is a narrow pipeline of all alerts that make a person feel required to offer a response. A person must check their email every fifteen minutes because they need to respond quickly to whatever is happening in their networked, online world. Being on top of these emails will get someone ahead of all the others. Who doesn’t like a prompt response to their emails?

I reject this approach. Here are my reasons.

There are no boundaries in a world where a person cannot get away from emails. They are obligated to respond, and become enslaved to a reactive role in others’ lives. If you think this is not true, then take a free day and spend all your time waiting for someone to email you. Don’t let ten minutes pass without reading a new message or offering a response to any email received. It’s insatiable. Having at least three to four hours (besides sleep) where a person is not obligated to communicate through that medium is necessary to maintain sanity.

Have you ever been online, browsed several sites, notice an hour has passed, and by the end of it realized the past hour provided zero satisfaction? Find yourself compelled to watch videos you really don’t enjoy? Researching topics that are pointless?

When I moved into my current apartment, my roommates and I decided to not have the internet. We would leave the house to check our email etc. What I’ve found is that when I get on my computer to check my email I spend at least thirty to forty five minutes on a task that should take no more than ten.

But wait, Will. Isn’t it nice to have this daydream-like time where a person can aimlessly wander the web without any guidelines or clear intention? Don’t people need time to let their eyes glaze over and have mindless activity?

(Tangent: daydreaming is infinite. Even if it does have the the words “world” and “wide” in it, the internet has boundaries and is narrower than it seems. This might be the “web” part of its name coming into play. It has nowhere near the sharp coziness of the imagination, nor its broad infinitude. Surfing the internet can be like television in its detrimental effects on the imagination. This topic, however, is for another time.)

Aimless wandering isn’t bad. The problem is when it’s unregulated, unplanned, and cuts into more beneficial ways of getting rest. That’s the issue isn’t it? A person wants to not think so they can let their mind rest. I agree that it’s important. However, it’s good when it’s not impulsive, and the person knows the what and the why of their project.

I see this a lot in the libraries on campus. Students come to study, but looking around the room I see most computers on, and most of the content on those computers are completely recreational.

Oh come on, Will. Quit being so harsh. You don’t know if it’s work-related or not.

You’re right. I don’t know. If I am completely wrong about my experience with email, then disregard what I say. However, if any of this relates, then I strongly suggest giving yourself two small blocks in the day where the time is spent reading emails and responding. If you have a job that requires more, then by all means adapt.

Does this blog count as a waste of time?


Stresspenguin said...


estherrose2of8 said...

It's funny... since I've read this, I've noticed how many times I check my email in a day, and it's probably fifteen or so (rough avg). That being said, you've got some good points here...