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The Gauntlet

I’m amazed how dependent we are on our Internet connections, particularly email. Just watch how people respond when they lose their Internet connections for a few hours. In a word, panic…as in, “I don’t know what to do!” I have had the same reaction, particularly at work. The Internet/email connection has become the biggest driver in our lives. And for some people, sadly, it’s the only driver in their lives. A friend who works in Big Corporate related how everyone on his floor simply sat around and talked when their network/T1 went down…no one could/would do any work.

Think this is baloney? Then take Chuck Martin’s challenge: go a week without email…no sending, no receiving (and no instant messaging). See how you react to losing your electronic umbilical cord. In his article at Darwin.org, Martin claims a typical manager could save 5-10 hours a week not dealing with email. Seems like a significant amount of time! How did we cope before the advent of email? My recollection is that not only did we do just fine, we were more productive in a lot of ways, and more importantly, we interacted with PEOPLE a lot more (what a concept…). You could even build a good argument that email/Internet has irrevocably damaged our ability to socialize in meaningful ways.

I realize there are a lot of benefits to email. After all, it has single-handedly contributed to making out world a lot smaller. And who doesn’t marvel at communication with someone around the world within a few seconds? Part of the leper’s clothing that email seems to be wearing of late is solely the fault of evil spam (a redundant phrase!), and less the loss of interpersonal, face-to-face communication. But it’s significant that one of the hottest areas in business books today is about improving conversations. Surely you remember these? The thing that happens when two or more people exist in the same dimension at the same time occupying the same relative space? It’s called TALKING and requires LIVE people (at least in the scientific sense).

Email as we now know it may well cease to exist. There is some evidence that face-to-face is making a comeback. And spam is increasing exponentially to the point that people will soon consider letters and phone calls as a more effective way to communicate, rather than wade through the spam in their inboxes. But in the meantime, take the addiction test: go a week without email and see what you’ve been missing in your life. You may even remember how to TALK to a real person again! In the immortal words of Judy Tenuta, “It could happen.”

1 comment to The Gauntlet

  • sya

    Hm…going without e-mail for a week. I think I could do it, but I don’t think my advisors would be very happy if I did. Anyways, I’m one of those people who don’t spend very much time on the internet/e-mail at work because the nature of the work doesn’t need the internet. I probably spend, max, 10 minutes checking mail each day–I can’t imagine someone staring at e-mail for 5-10 hours.