Yet problems appeared as fast as you could press “Send.”
Spam - Traif in a Whole New Way
Spam arose as email’s shadow. Now, spam filters come with your email. But back then, spam could be anything from innocent but annoying ads to filthy forbidden images.
A Whole New Area of Forbidden "Speech"
Then email’s deceptive appearance as regular mail (only in digital form!) plus its immediate response time led to people using it for intimate exchanges or lashon hara that quickly found its way across the Internet. Or if not made completely public, at least forwarded on to the one or two people where it could do the most damage.
The concept of “flame wars” also developed, with the lightning back-and-forth of hot ‘n’ heavy disagreement that was unlikely to develop in a face-to-face exchange and NEVER would have developed through a hand-written exchange of letters or even memos or faxes.
New Hacker Outlet
Hackers continue to hack email even with improved security and strong passwords. Inconvenience, identity theft, and worse continue to plague users.
But I thought I could handle it.
The Sweet Siren Song of Email
Furthermore, it’s an easier and seemingly gentler way of communicating with people, especially if you want to say something they don’t necessarily want to hear, whether for your own good or for theirs.
And finally, it has proved such a boon to employers and employees everywhere.
As just one of a million examples: If you’re a writer, no more waiting months to receive a reply to your submission. Your submission is received immediately and rejected immediately. No more waiting and wondering for an eternity! (Or accepted without the need for phone calls and stuff.) You can even interact with a colleague for months without ever hearing their voice.
Progress, O blessed progress!
Oops! Delete! Delete!
It’s not always conventionally "bad" stuff either. You can get intimate too fast over email, you can give forth too much of yourself via a mechanism that not only cannot be erased (unless the receiver is willing to press “Delete Forever” and even then, only Google knows whether it’s really gone), but can be forwarded infinitely for eternity.
And that’s the well-intentioned use of email.
Despite my best intentions, I’ve found myself guilty of sending emails (for better or for worse) full of content that I wouldn’t have said or written in snail-mail.
In fact, I think I even lost a job due to email, via the actions of a particularly disturbed and devious individual, though I’ll probably never know exactly why or how -- nor even if that individual was actually involved.
But if it did happen in the way I suspect it did, then I deserved it and kaparat ha’avonot.
Better to suffer consequences for negative actions in This World than in the World to Come.
Anyway, there are also altercations you undergo via email that you likely wouldn’t have otherwise.
There are also things you reveal (whether private for you or hurtful for the other) that you might not have revealed otherwise.
(You can also think you’re anonymous with email—and you can be anonymous to a certain extent if you want—which is part of email’s lure and part of its pitfall.)
Via email, I’ve maintained more contact with certain people than I would have otherwise.
But ironically, it took me years to realize that mostly wasn’t a good thing.
After all, if you can’t be bothered to address and stamp a letter or make a long-distance phone call (or they can’t be bothered to do that for you), then what kind of relationship do you really have?
People grow in different directions and compatibilities change (or were never really there in the first place).
What is Email Really Good For?
I have it and will continue to enjoy its convenience.
But what I’m realizing more and more is that a lot of this fast and easy technology is best used for faster and easier business and short tasks, but not more.
Scrolling and scrolling down a screen to read long, complex messages also ensures that the message isn’t absorbed as well as a printed-on-paper message. Regardless of how habituated you are to reading on a screen, your eyes skip a lot. Even with the specially designed anti-reflection e-ink e-readers, studies have shown that people reading a book on an e-reader understand and retain less than they retain from reading the exact same book in print.
But so far, I can't avoid sometimes producing really long blog posts... ;-)
So basically, email is good for:
- Business back-and-forth
- Sending invitations
- Thank-you notes (okay, not everyone agrees with me here, but I definitely prefer thank-you emails to handwritten thank-you notes)
- Dropping a quick message
- Unavoidable long-distance communications (i.e., can you imagine blogs if you had to mail your comments?)
- Sending someone pleasant thoughts, praise, encouragement, or genuinely helpful and light advice
- Certain kinds of photos
- Quick and helpful information (telephone numbers, names, addresses, etc)
- Many of the heart-warming or funny viral forwards are pretty nice too!
Like I said, I’m not giving up email. I honestly feel its benefits outweigh its disadvantages. And like I said, I feel like now I know how to deal with it in a healthier manner.
And believe me, I’ve been building up to this healthier manner for MONTHS. Some things are a process and even when you realize the truth of things, it still takes you a while to get there. This is also good because it gives me more compassion and understanding for others who may also struggle with actualizing their realizations. Sometimes, it takes a while for what’s in your brain to travel to your heart and all the other parts of your body.
And it would be hypocritical to look down on anyone for using it like I used to use it until very recently. I’m really not in any position to judge, trust me.
Furthermore, I still intend to respond in kind to anyone who sends me an email. There are wonderful people out there, and you sometimes end up finding them online.
But for me personally, I’m using email with greatly heightened awareness and newfound self-discipline. That’s all.
For the differences of absorption and retention on e-readers vs print: