The E-Mail Crutch

Melissa Stagnaro

Some days I think that e-mail is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Just this week I received a message via e-mail from a former classmate. One I haven’t seen or heard from since we graduated from Oxford 15 years ago. The fact that we’ve been out of school now for longer than we actually attended at OACS is something that, frankly, I’m not ready to contemplate. But I digress.

Ann-Marie saw my byline on the Evening Sun website and looked me up online. Her message was a blast from the past. I’m looking forward to catching up with her and actually keeping in touch this time around. That is one of the great benefits of e-mail, after all. The ability to keep in touch with people and places far removed from your own.

When you find yourself using it as the preferred means of communication with someone within shouting distance, however, it is the sign of a problem.

It has recently become apparent that I have this problem. I’ll give you an example.
This morning I found myself sending my editor, Jeff Genung, an e-mail. Now we use e-mail all the time to send attachments, forward messages and communicate when we’re not in the same office. But this was just a one line comment with no real importance.

That may not seem like an issue, other than the fact that I’m wasting Jeff’s precious time. But consider this: My desk is less than 15 feet from Jeff’s. I can actually see him if I tilt my head about 20 degrees to the left. I don’t even need to swivel in my chair. Yet I chose to send an e-mail to communicate this innocuous little comment.

I’m sure that you’ll agree. This is a problem.

I’m not the only one using e-mail as a crutch. For me, it is probably habit more than anything else. Sitting within the line of sight of my boss is a new thing. I think there are other issues for some people. I’m probably guilty of them as well at one time or another.

I’m sure there is a laziness factor. E-mail is certainly faster and less painful than picking up the phone or getting up from your desk to pass a message along. It’s less personal than face to face, so you don’t have to worry about negative reactions or rejection.

E-mail is also a tool of avoidance, a way of passing the responsibility of communication on to someone else. It allows the allusion of interaction while maintaining physical isolation. Oh yes, it’s a crutch.

I’m making a concerted effort to curb my anti-social tendencies. I promise is to go back to using e-mail as a tool and not as a crutch. Right after I send Jeff this one last e-mail…