Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Email Me at Your Own Risk

If I email someone I don't necessarily expect to hear back right away. Maybe they are busy. Maybe they are in the middle of a break-up or a health crisis. Maybe their son was caught smoking pot and is about to be suspended from school. Maybe they're at a Buddhist retreat or in the middle of a good book. If what I want to communicate is vital, I can always pick up the phone.

I have noticed, though, that this is not everyone's expectation. Take an extra day to answer your personal email and half of your correspondents start to wonder if you're still breathing. Why is this? Back in the horse and buggy era, when people wrote letters, no one thought they had to be answered the second you got them. You had some time to get around to it.

There is no chance that this leisurely timetable will ever be applied to email communications. The accepted practice is, you get it, you answer it. And if you don't the person who sent it thinks that you do not like them anymore, or that you are dead.

So I am working on a new a "Away" message that will explain that I am not dead but merely taking an email holiday:

Ann would really like to get back to you, but all of her circuits are temporarily busy. She is assisting other customers. She has no more available memory, and will resume communications when she has shut down some other operations. She's out of bandwidth and your message will have to wait until she has installed an optimizer, whatever that is.

In short, she is on overload. So, dear correspondents, would you be willing to help by going on an email diet? Nothing too stringent, just a few simple restrictions.

* If I have answered a question you asked in a previous email, it isn't necessary to write back and thank me. It is thanks enough not to have to open an email that simply says, "Thanks."

* No need to forward an article that appeared in a newspaper that I read everyday.

* If you are a member of my book club and you agree with a critical opinion that someone else has expressed in an email, it doesn't really add much to write back, "Me too"

* While I am delighted to be invited to your party, once is enough. I don't have to be reminded via who else is coming.

* And, finally, if we are both on the same email listserv, and you have something to say to one other member, please do not click "Reply All." "All" will thank you, especially me.

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