by Tricia Lunt, English Faculty
Opening my email always results in a range of negative emotions, frequently accompanied by sighs and lamentations (ask my nearest work neighbors). I could change my outlook, but I don’t plan to do so.
I hate email enough to have volunteered to plan a “No Email” holiday at RMU. This would only prohibit emailing people in the same building for one eight-hour work day in August. I can’t wait for all the bureaucratic indignation.
Email reproduces like ungodly rabbits. If I have a “quick question” for someone, it often seems like a good idea to “send a quick email” and then get a “quick response.”
Oh-ho, but it rarely, if ever, ends there. There is the follow-up email, either a valid question that requires yet another email, or the dreaded “thanks,” or, infinitely worse, “thanks for your thanks.”
While I do receive and send lovely, heartfelt emails from friends and family members, they are rarefied jewels glistening in my inbox. Most of us are simply too busy to correspond in this way. Besides, we’d much rather meet and discuss things over a few drinks.
My personal email account overflows with garbage that I must dispose of in the perfectly accurate trashcan icon. In early May, I got an “urgent” email from ProFlowers suggesting that my Mother’s Day flower order required my immediate attention. All the rest of the online shopping I have done comes complete with incessant, complimentary emails; Victoria’s Secret is positively desperate to earn my shopping dollars, offering me a free tote in a weekly email. Then there are frequent flier emails, great, yet I am I always just shy of a free flight.
I ask my students to email me only when necessary. They have the luxury of 24-hour access to an online learning system where I’ve provided all the information they need to complete coursework. I am scheduled to see them twice a week in two-hour sessions, that’s four full hours of contact with me per week, and additional office and on-campus hours. By my way of thinking, I should receive few, if any, emails from students. Sadly, that is not my reality. I attempt to assure them that I can offer more, and more fruitful, assistance when we have a genuine conversation happening in real time, my focus on them alone. I want to talk to my students whenever I am able, in person and in depth.
The main complaint I have concerning work emails is that they always require more work; they are hardly ever an invitation to a party.
Additionally, work emails come at all hours, and some bosses (not mine, thank my lucky stars!) expect people to read and answer their emails all day, all night, at any time. What’s the expectation: a person who works 24 hours? I don’t even own a personal computer, nor do I want one. I spend too much time in front of a screen as it is.
A few labor unions in France recently urged employees to stop conducting business after 6:00pm, reasoning that the work day should have a definite end. It is not an email ban, but perhaps it ought to be.
Much like unnecessary printing, eliminating unnecessary email should become a part of professional etiquette. Email is one way to communicate, but seldom the best way.
Similar to an invasive species, email will take over if given the opportunity. We ought to act now and cut back superfluous emailing before it strangles the life out of more multifaceted means of communication.