[Reader-list] Destruction by e-mail
aiindex at mnet.fr
Wed Dec 12 23:02:02 IST 2001
Sunday, Dec 09, 2001
Destruction by e-mail
C. RAMMANOHAR REDDY
THERE is no dearth of weighty subjects to discuss this week -
Prevention Of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), Enron or even the Mike
Denness affair. However, I prefer to write on a subject that seems
better suited for a Sunday morning: e-mail. But make no mistake -
e-mail could well become a life or death issue. It is already ruling,
I am sure, the lives of millions of people around the world. And this
is the story of the oppression of one man's life by the "killer
application" of the late 20th Century.
I know all the arguments about the power of e-mail. It is
instantaneous, it is inexpensive, it makes the world smaller and, as
a colleague somewhat enthusiastically said, it is an instrument of
democracy as well. Personally, my work requires me to collect
information quickly. What better tool than e-mail? I am supposed to
keep abreast of things happening around the world. What better tool
for this as well? And there is the bonus of keeping in touch with
family, with friends from half way across the world, not to mention
being informed by electronic newsletters about what is new in films,
books and everything that can be digitised. You can add a hundred
more advantages to e-mail. Yet ...
Some months ago I realised that days would pass without my putting
pen to paper. I was too busy hitting the keyboard. I found that in
the process my handwriting had become unrecognisable.
Last week I found I had gone one step further down the road of
"destruction by e-mail". At the end of the day I realised I had not,
barring the morning's papers, read print on paper all day. My
conversion to some kind of electronic zombie was complete.
E-mail has become both an addiction and a terror. Every morning I
look forward with a great deal of anticipation to that thin blue
strip of incoming mail (I am a Eudora man, which besides being my
protest against Microsoft, is also my protection against all those
viruses written for Outlook.) But once the messages descend I remain
overwhelmed by the avalanche of letters, information, bulletins and,
of course, junk email. Petrified is the best description.
My attempt at e-mail management has failed. I have half-a-dozen
addresses, which I juggle, to keep work separate from friends,
friends from interests and interests from cranks. But one inevitably
overlaps another. Innumerable messages are stored to be read another
day (never); many more are trashed; groups, which I don't want to be
members of, put me on their lists and all of them copy their
correspondence to me as well. (One e-mail address is for readers of
this column who would like to write in. But besides the interesting
writers there are also the cranks. I have been sent a quotation for
cement machinery another for a consignment of chocolates. And I have
been put on the distribution list of a group of "international
rationalists". I can only count myself lucky that the mailers of
jokes and pornography sites have spared me the blushes.)
I have tried to apply a single test to the utility of e-mail. With
that mountain of up to date information that it delivers, has the
quality of my work improved? An honest answer comparing B.E. with
S.E. will be "not really". Or rather, it has not been worth the
effort wading through all those reams of bits and bytes.
Yet, I remain an addict. If I do not access my e-mail for even a day,
my fingers start itching for the keyboard. And like an addict I
cannot imagine a life without e-mail. I recently read a piece by a
U.S. editor of no less a publication than a technology weekly
announcing that he was pulling the plug on all his e-mail addresses.
I wish I could "de-toxify" myself from e-mail in a similar manner.
Instead, I have unfortunately now started discovering the wonders of
Short Messaging Service (SMS).
E-mail the writer at crr100 at india.com
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