Subject: Forward This Article Around For Good Luck!
Apparently, in the early days of the digital age, some people in the defense department were worried about a new form of communication under development: E-mail.
Their concern decades ago was that this invention would increase productivity so much that it would make many humans largely obsolescent. We'd be A) so efficient that B) we won't even work anymore.
Well, they got the second part right. We're not working anymore, because all we're doing is e-mailing. In taking a look at some the correspondence that comes into this site, as well as personal e-mails I receive at home, several observations come to mind:
- E-mail is apparently often sent while the sender is drowning in a large pool of rapidly circulating water. In many e-mails, several subjects are often combined into one breathtaking freefall, winding up something like this:
I'm merging with another company and they're in the Netherlands and we have two different benefits plans and several hundred employees who are unhappy we need to keep them from leaving what do we do. Please respond by tomorrow if you can.
- For some reason, people will ask a question over e-mail they'd be too embarrassed to ask in person. This type of thing:
Todd, I'm the CEO of a rapidly growing Internet company in Denver. I was wondering if I should be paying the minimum wage or if there is some sort of exemption for that particular requirement.
- E-mail humor is one of the lower forms of entertainment.
Last night I received an e-mail with the ubiquitous subject line, "this one is really funny!" Messages labeled as such rarely are.
About once a month, I receive an e-mail with directions to forward it 15 other people, in order that good luck will come. Such messages are often accompanied by long lists of reasons we're lucky to be alive, such as the ability to forward e-mail. If good luck means ticking off 15 other people, these messages function as advertised.
- E-mail is taking away our ability to converse like we once did. Marcey, a former college friend, recently e-mailed from her new apartment. The purpose of the e-mail was to tell me her new eFax number. As you may know, eFax enables me to send a fax from a fax machine, and have that fax translated into an e-mail attachment she can then read. This is an old, close friend, who I actually used to have long conversations with. Now I'm supposed to fax her? What should I fax? Documents?
Don't get me wrong. I'm no e-mail cynic. E-mail is saving companies millions of dollars in direct mail costs, and also helping them communicate more personally with their customers. E-mail is allowing people to telecommute rather than disrupt their family lives by relocating. E-mail is enabling multinational companies to receive wireless reports from areas of the world where even phone service is unavailable. We get letters from one member of this site who works in a remote part of the Aleutian Islands, off Alaska.
E-mail has enabled business people to contact other business people from around the world who share their same company size and industry, as people do through the "Member Network" database found on this site.
Yes, I'm still a big fan of e-mail. If you want to talk about it, give me a call.
Other columns by Todd Raphael: