Some of the most depressing days of my life have been the result of an email. (My life was bliss before Al Gore invented the internet!). There is something wonderful about email communication and there is something insidious and harmful.
Consider the following evils:
1. It is very easy to write an email quickly and hit send without pondering the content or the effects. In the old days you had to pick up a phone and dial a number or write something by hand, put it an envelope, stick a stamp on it and wait for the mailman. Email can be a thoughtless form of communication, with nothing between you and stupidity except a send button.
2. Due to the massive volume of email we receive every day, email is not generally conducive to thoughtful reading. Spam. Spam. Spam. Silly joke. Spam. Update on Aunt Helen’s knee replacement. Spam. A weighty letter, dealing with grave issues, that require mind and heart. Pictures of the air show. Spam. Spam. Spam. It is almost like watching the news and going from sound bites and news clips of a cyclone that killed thousands to the latest news on Brittany Spears. We are desensitized by the mundane or trite and fail to feel the full weight of the important things.
3. In spite of all the little attempts at smiley faces and winks, tone is very hard to convey through email. I have sent replies to people that I have thought were absolutely brilliant for their terseness, dry humor, laced with sarcasm and sprinkled with irony, only to find the recipient was deeply offended. The phone is better. In person is better yet, for those serious weighty matters where tone and facial expression make up a part of human communication.
4. Email can be consuming. If you work around or on a computer all day, email can be a constant distraction with the email notification, even if your New Message Notification .wav file is a great line from Nacho Libre or Young Frankenstein. At least the mailman doesn’t show up until the afternoon and even then it takes effort to go to the box.
This is for me as much as anybody.
1. Do not castigate someone via email. Do it in person. You will at least have to think about what you are going to say and then put a little courage behind it.
2. Do not deal with weighty issues on email, if you can help it. We use email at our church for prayer requests. This is great, it gets people praying. But when it comes to a serious situation that needs discussion, discuss the old fashioned way, face to face or voice to voice.
3. When an email comes in of great importance, read it carefully. Print it up and read a hard copy. Make sure you know what it really says.
4. If you think you are funny, remember you may not be as funny as you think you are on email.
5. Turn off the email until certain times. Definitely turn it off during your devotions.