Email: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

High on the blog circuit at the moment are two articles on email – which, BTW, I now regard to be ‘old media’. And I am rather uncomfortable to have to admit that I identify with both articles. The first article from the BBC discusses how email has become the quintessential personal database, with people reticent to throw out old communications in case they need to call up an old address, epistle or statement for future use. And unlike snail mail, it’s possible to store hundreds of thousands of communications in a manner which doesn’t look as bad as filling up your garage with old paper mail. Of course, it is still hoarding, and the actual value of keeping old emails is limited at best. And there are those of us who subscribe to certain mailing lists but then filter our email so we never actually see messages sent to the mailing list because they are automatically listed as “read mail” and placed in a directory for later access. The truth is that we rarely access these messages, save for those moments when we have to do research on an issue or when we are so bored that we have nothing to do and can sit down and kill some time, catching up on what peope having been saying out there in the ether. The only other times we may begin a frenzy of reading is if we have a specific question we want answered. Then it frustrates us that no-one is answering our queries.

The second article from The Register, reports on a study conducted at Kings College, London, demonstrating that those who are addicted to email messaging are likely to suffer a loss in mental acuity over time. IQ rates actually reduce in accordance with a person’s capacity to communicate through other mediums (such as through inter-personal communication).

Fortunately for me, I have always been too gregarious a personality (and obsessed with exercise, shopping and enjoying being with people) to become too addicted to electronic communication systems, but I do know what it is like to just lose a day to answering email messages, talking via instant messaging and engaging in debate via these and other systems. I don’t like the idea of losing a day and my verbal, numerical or spatial reasoning skills.

Still, time to start doing Mensa workouts just for the fun of it again, I suppose.

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