Something I’ve learnt from 39.5 years of using email every day for work:

  1. If you are the kind of person who communicates with another person to tell them that you need to communicate with them…

There, I’ve said it. Time to exhale.

Let’s put this into business terms: extremely poor ROI and low LTV.

Let’s put this into scientific terms: consider the existence of a Bayesian prior indicating how another individual is likely to be a complete flake.

You’re welcome.

Not clear on this yet? We’ll illustrate with an example.

Alice is one person, Bob is another person. They are separated, physically, although multiple means of digital communication exist between them, including: texts, email, phone, video chat, tweets, Instagram comment threads, robotic carrier pigeons, and the like.

Bob sends Alice an email message: “Hey Alice, I need to talk with you.” Meaning, on some implied level, “Alice, call me. I have something to say.” However — and here comes strike two — then our friend Bob has a little fucking freak-out and starts to text or message Alice with nonsense along the lines of “Alice, why haven’t you answered my email about giving me a call!?!”

All the while, Bob could have simply said exactly what he felt so compelled that he needed to say right there during the initial communication. He could have saved them both time and grief.

Bob did not, because Bob is a terribly, horribly, dreadfully sad excuse for a person.

We could dwell on the media-theoretic implications of this scenario, in case you didn’t bother to read McLuhan in detail? The esteemed philosopher from Winnipeg did spell out the problem quite luridly six decades ago. Moreover, he elaborated on those themes throughout the rest of his life.

Do not be a Bob. The next time you go to communicate, ask yourself: “Am I truly saying anything? Or am I merely projecting anxiety? Do I need to abuse a half dozen different modes of communication against some hapless victim, merely to demonstrate the state of being an arse?”

To wit: I’ve noticed over the past few decades how this phenomenon becomes amplified when many people feel anxious and have dire needs for emotional support and human connection. In other words, as the fecal matter prepares to confront an HVAC, people in aggregate seem to communicate less well. Perhaps the effect can be used as a leading indicator for, say, global financial crises. Or something.

My “email anniversary” is coming up this August. If you have similar depth of experience with the medium, I’m eager to hear your perspectives. If you have less than, say, 30 years experience with email — just put a pin in it.

evil mad sci, derwen.ai/paco ; lives on an apple orchard in Ecotopia

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