Two Hours and Still No Reply?!

10 Sep

Back in the good ol’ days (10 years ago), someone could send out an email and then waited for a reply. The times are changing; we live in a world of instant information, and new forms of online communication are emerging every day. Now, social networking allows people to publicly express pointless things like “just ate lunch!” With all of these new ways to express yourself, and in a world run rampant with smartphones, emails are beginning to blur the lines regarding online communication.

New Age, New Ways.  In “Why Email No Longer Rules…,” Jessica Vascellaro explores new forms of online expression and what their implications may be on email. She argues that the way we use Internet today is shifting us toward the use of more adaptive and expressive online communication like Twitter and Facebook.

I agree that Internet usage is shifting us toward these new forms of expression. Heck, I wouldn’t be writing this blog if that weren’t the case. Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook are allowing people to express themselves more than ever–giving them an opportunity to share their lives with the world. A privilege that 15 years ago was reserved for celebrities.

Aside from the typical usage, Jessica also mentions another way these online platforms are being used; some protesters are actually expressing themselves through Twitter, shifting the public opinion during elections. Who knew a tweet could be so powerful? It’s a wonderful thing that these new communication channels are empowering individuals like never before! Though, with all of these new forms of expression, where does email fit in?

The Death of Formality.  Ok, that’s a little of an exaggeration, but our communication today is becoming less formal all the time. Texting has become so informal that a whole separate form of “Textese,” has been developed to abbreviate lots of common phrases. Even if email hasn’t gone that far (yet), it’s going downhill too.

Because of the speed with which we receive and send emails, our inboxes are becoming more like chat-boxes every day. If I’m responding to an email on my phone, I find it hard not to treat it in some way like an “instant message.” Just the fact that I’m typing on my phone makes the whole process, and as a result my message, seem less formal.

Even with this subconscious lessening in formality, that doesn’t change the way I feel when sending a message to the dean on my Iphone. That feeling, that formality, the whole principle of email, is something that can never fully be taken away. Just as we will always need the postal service to deliver a package every once in a while, even if we aren’t sending letters anymore. We will always need email for certain situations, even if we primarily rely on some other form of communication.

Eating Your Day Away.  Now we must consider the most important question. What does all of this change mean for our daily lives?

Before I came to college I checked my email maybe once every two weeks. Then I got here and began attending classes, joining clubs, and going to events. All of a sudden, I was receiving class announcements, meeting times, and event information in emails every day. Not only was I receiving emails every day, but I was receiving things like meeting times for a meeting that day.  I learned that I was now expected to not only check my email once a day but continually throughout the day. Though this may sound unbelievable, the necessity of checking my email was something I never would have imagined before coming to college.

So I adapted. I have all three of my email accounts synced to my Iphone, and every time my phone receives an email it vibrates just like it would for a text message. As I said earlier, the two forms of communication are blurring together. Now, I use my email more than text messaging by far.

There’s only one problem. Most of the emails I receive are not from individuals I’m on an informal basis with, so each response I write takes meticulous thought, energy, and time. I practically treat each email as an individual school assignment, planning my words carefully and always checking my tone. As you can imagine, this eats away my precious free time, time that could be well spent doing actual schoolwork. This part of my life begins to touch on Jessica’s last point: Is this new ‘instant-email’ really saving us any time?

I only receive about 20 emails a day, but those 20 emails can take me an hour and a half. Professors talk to me constantly about receiving hundreds of emails a day. What will I do if my email ever gets to that point?

So when considering how instant technology is affecting our world for better or for worse, you must think about your own time. Have all of these communication changes really been saving you time? Or only increased your workload?

All I know is that I’ll never be able to go without checking my email for two weeks ever again.

by Austin Spurlock


One Response to “Two Hours and Still No Reply?!”

  1. Silke Sen September 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Glad to hear that you’ve adapted to email, Austin. It’s an integral part of professional life. The skills you’ve developed and are continuing to develop will serve you well. Crafting an appropriate reply is a skill set – you’ll get to a point where it’s not as time consuming, I’m sure. Thanks for an insightful post. I hope your peers will be inspired to embrace email just as you did.

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