I’m feeling kind of old. I don’t really think I’m old. But my ideas of what one posts on social media and how email is used seem to be lagging behind. After thinking about it, I suppose what you send in an email could be considered “fair game” to send on indeterminately. But I’ve usually assumed that people use some common sense etiquette in forwarding or not forwarding. My bad.
I love email and I hate email. It gives me a way to easily communicate with friends and family far and wide. It’s funny to think about how things were at school before email and computers. I can remember going around and picking up bubble sheets for attendance during my hall duty. We had to bubble in grades for our classes too. We were notified of important events by a memo in our box. There was a “Do Not Admit” list each day for those kids who hadn’t served their detentions. Eventually we got a computer in every classroom. Now, almost all of our communication is through email.
Email is a blessing and a curse. Most of the time it’s great. But what about when it isn’t? Have you ever had the situation when someone reads your email in an entirely different tone than which it was written? Once you’ve had that happen, you are very careful at how your word the next email. But the most disturbing thing about email is how it takes the human element out of communication. When you send an email, you don’t see the reactions of the reader. You don’t have to deal with their hurt, frustration, anger, or their joy, for that matter. I’ve read books where they talk about how we’re becoming desensitized because of how we communicate. Texting, email, Twitter… You don’t have to see anyone’s reaction. You might get a reply. But you don’t have to see the emotion that you had a hand in creating. If it’s taken the wrong way, you can’t clarify and ease the understanding unless you are face to face. And just screw the person who is several degrees away from the original email. They’ve got no hope in dealing with the situation.
There was a Sex In The City episode where Burger (I think) broke up with Carrie via a Post-It. She was stunned. Horrified. Angry that he didn’t have the ballz to break up with her face to face, or at least over the phone. Breaking up with a Post-It was the coward’s way out of the relationship. Is our technological world making it ok to take the coward’s way out? Is that now acceptable?
Maybe I’m too sensitive. I actually think about how my words will affect people. I also think about how, when you use email, you can’t convey your tone, facial expressions, and emotions the way you can with a face to face conversation. There are times when I haven’t been pleased with the outcome of a situation. Did I forward the response to the affected parties? No. I had a face to face conversation with them because I knew that forwarding would create a huge mess and lots of hurt feelings. Am I an old fuddy-duddy because I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that any email is fair game to forward?
I don’t know how this issue will evolve. For some reason, I’m not very hopeful about it. But I’ve learned the lesson. Be careful what you email. You never know where it will end up!