Sunday, July 17, 2011

"The Roaring Silence" of Email

Is Anyone There?  (The New York Times, 7/17/2011)

ExcerptThe roaring silence. The pause that does not refresh. The world is full of examples of how the anonymity and remove of the Internet cause us to write and post things that we later regret. But what of the way that anonymity and remove sometimes leave us dangling like a cartoon character that has run off a cliff?

For every fiery screed or gushy, tear-streaked confession in the ethersphere, it seems there’s a big patch of grainy, unresolved black. Though it would comfort us to think that these long silences are the product of technical failure or mishap, the more likely culprits are lack of courtesy and passive aggression.

“The Internet is something very informal that happened to a society that was already very informal,” said P. M. Forni, an etiquette expert and the author of “Choosing Civility.” “We can get away with murder, so to speak. The endless amount of people we can contact means we are not as cautious or kind as we might be. Consciously or unconsciously we think of our interlocutors as disposable or replaceable.

True confessions.

I have a couple of emails that have been sitting in my inbox for more than two months, awaiting a response to a "Can you help?" type of unsolicited query. I didn't even provide the senders with the courtesy of an immediate response, such as "Give me a week or two to do some research and I'll get back to you."

Stymied by procrastination.

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