I am old enough to remember a time when email did not exist. I am therefore old enough to appreciate the wondrous way in which it has changed human communication. It does not seem so long ago, temping for large companies, I used to have to type out memoranda, or memos, to other staff members, print them out and pop into into the internal mail. Then one would twiddle one’s fingers for a day or so, waiting for a response via memorandum. If I think back even further I can remember jobs where the printer was known as the typewriter and there were no computers at all. In my lifetime. Amazing.
Email was mindboggling back then. The speed of it transformed working life – I used it at work long before it was available at home. Now, of course, we all go much too fast for our own good and the ease of email has meant that we are bombarded with all kinds of communication, all of the time. Too much email, a bulging inbox? Modern life. Don’t moan, it’s the way it is. But I am going to moan and there are two reasons why.
#1 The Fear
This is when you spend time away from your inbox, say a week’s annual leave. Of course, you have set up the out of office message because you are a consumate professional, but after a day or so of freedom, something starts to niggle at the back of your brain. It’s The Fear. The Fear of what’s in your inbox. Those out of office messages are fine and dandy, but they only tell the emailer at the other end that you aren’t there after they’ve already emailed you. It’s all very well them being informed that you’ll be back in the office and onto their email like a hot potato on date x or y, but if a couple of hundred of people send you emails during your week off then it’s a lot of hot potatoes to handle in one go when you get back. Just the thought of it gives me indigestion. The other side of The Fear is that some terrible news will come whilst I am away. Like I am fired, or the building has burned down, or there is an outbreak of Legionnaires disease. Not that I’m a control freak… Anyway, I have a way round this Fear. I manage the anxiety that returning to the bulging inbox provokes by checking my email whilst I’m away. I don’t often reply, because that would make a fool out of the out of office messenger, but I am still reading the mail. So much for switching off from work.
#2 The Spam
As I only take annual leave a couple of times of year The Fear doesn’t happen too often, but The Spam… every single freaking day! Of course I have a spam filter but so much of it gets through. And anyway you have to check your Spam folder because emails you want to read end up there as well. The email inbox used to contain all kinds of interesting things to read, now its like trying to find something you want in a landfill site. It’s got worse recently. Do I want to be a plumber, a gas fitter an electrician or a green energy engineer (whatever that is)? No. Do I want to sign up to diets? No. Did I ever take out PPI? No. Do I want to claim for an accident? No. This is a new one – do I want to be a Video Games Tester? No.
And so it goes on. Do I want to write a review for something I bought? No. Do I want to buy a similar thing to what I just bought? Errrr, let me think… no. Do I want to peruse today’s thousands of ‘hot deals’? Certainly not. Which brings me to the Viagra, the Viagra alternatives and the penis extensions – no, no and no!
Do I want to repair my credit with a 1000% credit card, or take out a Payday loan? No. And do I want to have laser eye surgery. You know the answer don’t you?
Oh, I nearly forgot. Do I want to install solar panels and get £17 grand for my troubles. Arrrghhhhhh.
It’s official, I have email fatigue. It was great whilst it lasted but now I hate instant communication. From now on, if you want to ask me something, send me a memo.