I returned from holiday, to work, on Tuesday this week. As I was on retreat at Taizé in Central France, for eight days, I voluntarily did not check, receive, or send email messages. In fact, I didn’t make any use of the internet or ‘phone while I was away – and I didn’t miss it, or feel a need to check messages, as I do, now that I’ve returned to work.
This experience has led me to reflect on email, and this is the topic for the rest of this post. This will probably show my age….before I was a sixth former, I had never sent an email. During sixth form, it was barely used. When my first lecturer at university said that all communication about the course would be sent via email, I was terrified: I wasn’t sure what I was doing with email, and the thought of inadvertently (or otherwise) messaging a lecturer was petrifying.
Now, I’ve overcome that fear, and can’t imagine how a university or academic community could function efficiently without email. Taizé gave me glimpses, with notices given at the beginning of group studies, and poster information, and photocopied sheets, but….it would dramatically increase my workload if I had to communicate via those methods. To borrow the words of Lola [email] is more friendly and straightaway.
Because – as I understand it – the common courtesy reply time on an email message is 48 hours, I didn’t feel I could leave my desk, without setting up an auto-reply (without this, I would have panicked about appearing rude, or missing something vital). It turns out I wouldn’t have done, and was swiftly able to deal with the 100 or so messages that appeared in my absence, and to re-enter academia smoothly.
I am so bound by electronic communication, that I have to inform the world when I’m not using it. In previous times, surely, I would simply have pinned a note on my office door, and messages in a pigeon hole would have had to wait, without response…. I’m not even sure it’s a good idea to let everyone know you’re not at work, is it?
Of course, during writing this post, I have received new notifications – better check out what they are……