Wednesday, April 27, 2005


I may not give much weight to IQ tests and the like, but I find this research on the effect of e-mails quite scary. E-mail has certainly affected my life. I believe that the quality of my writing has gone down. I may write more, but I do not put quite the same thought into that which I write. I generally receive well over one hundred e-mails every day (fortunately, I don't have to answer e-mails at work). I do not have the time to give them all the attention that I would like to particularly when I have so many other jobs that need doing. They control more of my free time than I would like them to. I also observe a compulsive urge to check up my e-mails every few minutes. As a result my mind is not as focused as it ought to be. It fragments my time and, being bombarded with new (and disconnected) information all the time, makes it harder for me to develop wisdom and the consistency and constancy of personhood necessary to be of service to our Lord in the world. E-mail's effect on me is well summed up in Hugh Mackay's comments on info-glut (quoted by Marva Dawn in Unfettered Hope):—
[Information can be used as] a distraction from thinking (as long as I keep absorbing this information, I won’t have to make sense of it); or as an insulation from reality (as long as I’m immersed in information, I don’t have to confront what is actually going on around me); or as a form of constant stimulation to create the illusion that something is always happening (I’m never bored … there’s always the TV or the Internet, or the latest CD-ROM).
I also find that, while I would love to give extended thought to particular questions, answering e-mails tends to scatter my thoughts in many different directions. Whilst this is occasionally helpful and can increase the possibility of serendipitous solutions to vexing theological problems, it also has many downsides. It makes a lengthy treatment of any particular subject far harder. I am also increasingly aware of the fact that my thought is not as clear when dealing with e-mails as it is much of the rest of the time. The ease of e-mail does not lend itself to the sort of careful thought that I would like to cultivate. At the moment I am trying to think of ways in which I can successfully use e-mail, without it dominating my life. Cutting back on e-mail is hard, harder than cutting it out altogether (I do not believe that I need to do this unless all else fails). I would be interested to hear how other people have gained control over their e-mail.

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