Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Technological Drag

I've written before about how email, instant messaging, faxes, and other "advances" raise expectations of speedy responses and thus increase stress.

There are, however, some other aspects that deserve attention.

  1. Since it is easier to communicate to groups of people, we tend to communicate with larger groups. We might have been stingy when adding the cc's to a standard letter, but there's hardly any effort at all to copy small armies to our email messages. We possess a greater capacity to squander the time of others.

  2. These shotgun blasts have been countered with another weapon: the delete button. Technology has made it easier for the recipients to ignore our messages. When you received an old fashioned paper memo or letter, you usually read it. Nowadays, it is far more convenient to delete messages without a single peek at the contents. You can imagine the impact in the publishing biz. Unknown writers who submitted queries "over the transom" - as the quaint phrase went - once had a chance that a real, live person might glance at the next "War and Peace" and rescue it from what was coldly referred to as the slush pile. Many book and magazine queries are now dealt with via email. Rather than bother with tucking crushed dreams into self-addressed stamped envelopes, the publishers declare that if an electronic query or submission receives no response within x number of days, all is lost and the writer should return to the plow or the burger grill. In that case, modern technology hasn't brought people closer together. It has pushed them apart.

  3. Electronic communication also lacks charm. I'm guilty of sending electronic thank you notes but will readily concede that a hand-written note on nice stationery is more human and more humane. A hand-written message gives you a better sense of the personality behind the correspondence.

  4. That lack of warmth is an inherent problem with email, no matter how many smiley faces are inserted. We are expected to give responses via a medium that is inherently cold within a time period that discourages calm deliberation. Not good. Not good at all.

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