The Trouble With a Great Technology
What was life like before the proliferation of e-mail? I can barely remember anymore, but I do recall that my daily activities weren’t so tightly tied to this electronic box called my computer.
Please don’t misunderstand. I love the conveniences that e-mail enables. It allows me to let everyone on the staff know when I’m changing the editorial production schedule. I can communicate easily with readers, or exchange messages with my sister when our time-zone difference makes phone calls unwieldy. I get terrific opt-in marketing messages from my favorite catalogers, and informative newsletters from trusted publishers.
In all, I get about 100 e-mail messages at work each day, and another 50 or so at my home account. (Some PR people have taken to calling me and asking: “Did you get my e-mail today?” My first thought usually is: “My gosh, I have no idea.”) Some e-mails are highly valuable to me, such as those from catalogers who have questions or comments about a recent article we’ve published or vendors telling us about their new products and services.
Other e-mails are pure spam that I delete without even opening, such as offers for Viagra, Russian brides, septic tank cleaning (I live in a condo) or tickets to traveling Broadway shows appearing in Seattle (I reside and work in Philadelphia). Someone needs to explain the concept of target marketing to some of these e-mailers. Or perhaps they should just subscribe to our sister publication Target Marketing.
Apparently I’m not alone in this thinking that e-mail sometimes is a bit too much to handle. And that’s too bad, because it really is a revolutionary technology, a “killer app” that has transformed the way we live, work and communicate.
But — and here’s my thesis — it’s also a technology that requires I devote time and attention to it. It demands that I do something, namely open, read and respond; save it; or delete. In short, it’s a communications technology I can’t simply turn on and ignore like I do TV or radio.