Friday, 22 May 2009

You've Got Mail


My name is Caroline and I am an email addict.
In the time it took me to write that, about five million emails went whizzing around the world. It’s reckoned that about 210 billion are sent every single day. And even though many of them are offers for penile extension and requests from made-up banks, a very large number are genuine.
Rather too many of them are probably mine.
It’s hard to remember what life was like before email. I work from home and on the rare days when my program is ‘down’, I’m like one of those lions pacing around its cage at the zoo. I live on a quiet road and the ping of my inbox helps me feel in touch with the world outside. [My email doesn’t literally go ‘ping’. It doesn’t make any sound at all, but you get my drift]. Almost all my journalism commissions arrive via email and it’s the medium I use most to contact people in my job. I often set up interviews by email and sometimes even get to DO the interview by email, thereby by-passing the phone entirely. That means no transcribing of the conversation and a clear record of what was said for all concerned. Result!
I also love email as a means of keeping in touch with friends, from the ones that live just down the road, to the one who live thousands of miles away in different time zones. The great thing about this medium is that you can reply at your leisure, unlike phone calls that happen when your child is decorating the bathroom with their bottle of Matey bubblebath, or when you’re late for an appointment, or just can’t be fagged to speak right now. Sure, an answering machine serves that purpose too, but ‘screening’ calls always feels just a little bit furtive.
And yet…I’m wondering whether this need for control when it comes to communication is necessarily a good thing. I’ve become uncomfortably aware lately that I would almost always rather send an email than pick up a phone. I’ve always found it much easier to write about my feelings than say them out loud, and my email addiction feeds into this. Where will it end? I have visions of myself as a wizened old lady, tap-tapping away on my keyboard with my gnarled fingers while tumbleweed blows through my house and feral cats scavenge for scraps under my desk.
Then there’s the whole ‘watched pot’ problem. I have a handful of submissions to agents out there right now, all of whom are overwhelmingly likely to get back to me my email. Let’s just say I’m visiting my inbox at a rate that went beyond healthy quite some time ago.
So something must be done. I’m thinking of having a day soon where I switch off my modem from dawn to dusk. I’ll probably crack within the first 20 minutes but I’d like to know whether I’m made of strong enough stuff.
I’m going to call it National No-mail Day.
Anyone else out there care to join me and reduce that 210 billion?

22 comments:

Geraldine Ryan said...

Caroline, I think National No Mail Day would be a great invention. What day do you designate for this? I'll definitely be joining in! I agree it's a terrible addiction. I hate weekends when I know there's no chance of an ed getting back to me about a story! How sad is that!

Luisa said...

I'm right with you on preferring email to phone calls.

I have an enforced 'no-mail month' every year and at first I'm always itching to check, but after about three and a half weeks I start to get used to it... :)

CarolineG said...

THREE AND A HALF WEEKS???

There is no hope for any of us!

Geri, do you think Bank Holiday Monday would be a cop out? I'd still find it difficult but could ease me into a new mentality...and no chance of missed work stuff!

Bernadette said...

I lost my internet connection for a while a few months ago and was desolate! I found I could access my mail at the local library, but then I had to work out when in the day to go (more than once looked a bit obsessive). If I went too early, then there was potentially a whole day's mail waiting unread overnight. If I left it till later I had to try and put it out of my mind until the designated time and simply wait (not my strongest area). And the library was closed on Wednesdays!

Why check at 7am, my husband says - overseas markets, I reply. Why at weekends? Some magazine editors work from home. (Sorry Geraldine, but I've had stories back on Sundays!) Do you need to know right away, he asks. It'll still be there later on, or tomorrow. That clearly deserves no response.

And then there are all the blogs and forums and ....

Sorry, Caroline, but I won't be joining you on National No-mail day. I just don't have the willpower!

HelenMHunt said...

I've also got to the stage where I can barely make a phone call. Email is so much easier. But I also am obsessive about it to the point where I know it's not healthy. I think all you need to do now is tell us when National No Mail Day is so we can all join in!

Julie P said...

No email day?!! Oo er! Do you think we can do it?! I get quite down when I have no emails, but I get really cranky when I have one in my inbox and I find it's only from Tesco diets! I think thry're hounding me. I suspect they're trying to tell me something!

CarolineG said...

Oh no, what have I done! I'll have to do it now, won't I?

I'm going to suggest the coming Monday. OK, it's bank holiday but that wouldn;t have stopped me normally. Anyone else in, or is that date a cop out?

Samantha Tonge said...

I can really relate to this, Caroline!

I know a couple who used to share an office and sometimes emailed each other across the room instead of talking!

I don't think it is healthy and i think it kills one's concentration span. I keep meaning to kill my modem for one day, but haven't managed it yet.

Emailers Anonymous anyone??:)

Lucy Diamond said...

I am SO with you on the email addiction, it's terrible. Mind you, back in the pre-email days (remember those?) when I was a twenty-something, my nickname was 'Buzby' because I was always gassing on the phone for ages. Perhaps we're all just natural communicators and shouldn't beat ourselves up for it? *ahem*

Caroline R said...

Ooh, a No-Mail Day sounds a great idea. I'll join in! It'll be incredibly difficult though - I'd only survive by going out of the house altogether for the whole day.

We'll probably end up emailing each other to see how we're getting on...

Geraldine Ryan said...

Monday then, girls?

Anonymous said...

Oh, God. I so relate to this.

Poppy

(word verification: heart)

CarolineG said...

Monday it is!!!

Who else is in?

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

I am an old IT person that understands email very well because, you will probably not believe this, I worked with the man that first designed an early email system in the 1970's. I was responsible for testing his software and offering more design features. We worked for a company called Sperry which was the major competitor to IBM. His email system was copied by IBM and Microsoft and it was the grandfather of email today. It weas very different to what is avialable today as it has gone through many generational evolutions. The man is Italian and called Luciano Sangermano. A ture gent and an exceptionally clever man. Glad you like email - I couldn't live without it.

Great post.

CarolineG said...

How exciting, MOB! I can;t imagine life without it now.
But on Monday, I am not going to switch on my computer until the evening, which I hereby designate as 7pm. I'll have to go the whole hog, or won;t succeed, so it's no internet either.
Good luck to anyone else who joins in!

Karen said...

Any communication is better than none in my opinion. Or maybe that's my excuse for preferring email to ringing people and actually talking to them! My mum's about the only person I talk to regularly on the phone as she doesn't have a computer!

Geraldine Ryan said...

The great thing about email is you don't have to do all the preliminaries and the endings that you do when you make a phone call. Apparently, research has shown that when people are on the phone they bring the conversation to an end 3 times before actually closing it. One or other of the participants will always start it again.

Poppy said...

I'm not in - just not ready to take that step yet.


Good luck . . .

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Urgh. I just got back after a week away and have ploughed through 152 emails, so this def strikes a chord.
I have a nasty little syndrome called 'Email Optimism' - whenever I get mail I have this hope that it's something exciting/positive/terrific. And then it's not. (Usually). But I can't give it up. I live in such an isolated place that I would prob. go mad without it.
Susiex

Emily Gale said...

Caroline, I need email rehab, count me in! Monday isn't a bank holiday in Australia, but on the plus side I'll have finished my no-mail day just as you're getting up...but don't worry, I'll email you to let you know how it went :)

Sam, I'm afraid my partner and I are just like that couple...we talk to each other A LOT on iChat, when he's in his home office and I'm in mine. We have some of our best discussions this way! I don't think Dr Phil would be very impressed.

CarolineG said...

Ah Emily, you will be able to laugh out our pain, having completed the challenge before us...

Fionnuala Kearney said...

Caroline, so sorry that I came to this late but had a long weekend so does last Friday count as a no email day? Ish? I think I only logged on for a couple of minutes- ish? Either way, I'm only coming to this on Tuesday morning so hope you all had a successful no email bank holiday. And anyway, if I'd have tried I'd have failed. I am a hopeless email junkie....