My e-mail program is sick. When I open it, the motor in my computer begins to hum and in a minute or two it’s whining hard and the program refuses to stop. It’s like a car stuck in drive, and the only way I can cut it off is to push the power button on the computer and turn off the whole business. The Mac therapist won’t be able to look at it for a few days, and I’m afraid I’ll do something fatal to the computer if I try to e-mail, which is how I discovered that I’m an e-mail addict.
I’m not a phone person. To me, the phone is for reporting floods or fires, and I can’t think of anything I dislike more than idle phone chat. So it has come as a shock to realize that I’m hooked on idle e-mail chat, and that I feel cut off from civilization because I can’t send e-mails. Not that I have anything important to e-mail anybody about, or that I can’t pick up the phone and call if I do, but I feel oddly lost without the ability to type in my messages and zip them off into the ether. It’s downright strange.
I’ve also discovered that I’ve become profoundly inarticulate when I’m forced to use the phone instead of e-mail. Especially when I get answering machines. Calling to thank a friend for the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner she and her husband hosted, I left a burbled message about the food and the company, and then said, “You don’t have to call me back.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wished I could edit them like I can e-mail, but it was too late. I had left a sappy message that ended with permission not to return my call. Ugh.
I wonder if all the technological progress we’ve made is changing the way we communicate. Will e-mail eventually become more common than phoning? Will people who text-message all the time lose the ability to spell or to speak in whole sentences? Will people who go around with a phone stuck to their ears lose the ability for face-to-face conversation? If they do, will it only be people who are old enough to remember pre-TIVo days who will notice? Probably more important, will it really matter?