Are You Overwhelmed by Email?
I found the essay Against Email (in the terrific n+1 mag) an insightful take on the double-edged nature of most technologies:
It’s the old story: the new efficient technology ends up costing far more time than it ever saves, because it breeds new expectations of what a person can possibly do. So commuters in their fast cars spend hours each day in slow traffic, and then at the office they read and send email.
Correct emailing practice does not exist. The true mood of the form is spontaneity, alacrity—the right time to reply to a message is right away. But do that and your life is gone. So you reject the spontaneous spirit of email; you hold off replying for hours, days, even weeks. By then the initiatory email has gone stale, and your reply is bound to be labored. You compensate for the offense with a needlessly elaborate message. You ask polite questions to which you pray there will never come an answer. Oh, but there will.
A cri (whimper?) de coeur appropriate for the 10th anniversary of David Shenk’s book, Data Smog. However, Shenk himself is now a lot more confident that technology may at least help us keep track of what we’ve left undone:
Google is just the most obvious example of the extraordinary ingenuity coming from hardware, software, and content creators. By and large, I am guilty of having vastly underestimated these people in my book. I was pretty harsh on the tech industry, accusing it rather glibly of being more interested in upgrade payments than true ingenuity. . . . .it makes me cringe now to realize I didn’t make this a more nuanced critique.
One of my great comforts is looking back on an old file like AugustTodo.doc from 2004, realizing how little of it got done, and how little, in the end, that ultimately mattered.