Mike Fromowitz
Sep 10, 2011

Is e-mail making us lose our ability to communicate on a personal level?

I could never understand people sending me e-mails when they were just a few offices down the hall. I questioned why they couldn’t have just as easily walked over and told me, face to face, what ...

Is e-mail making us lose our ability to communicate on a personal level?

I could never understand people sending me e-mails when they were just a few offices down the hall. I questioned why they couldn’t have just as easily walked over and told me, face to face, what was on their mind.  Maybe they thought it was more convenient to tell me by e-mail.

I admit, I send e-mails to people who I could just as easily call on the telephone.  Some people spend hours typing e-mails when picking up the phone would get it done in 30 seconds. Besides, not all writers of e-mail make their messages clear, concise and to the point.

It makes me wonder whether this impersonal style of communications through e-mail is making us less able to converse in person—turning us into communication weaklings, lightweights, cowards, or wimps, unable to speak our minds, disagree, be the bearer of bad news, or just talk openly and directly.

Stress expert Professor Carey Cooper at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, said: “E-Mail is now the biggest way in which staff working in the same company communicate. They think that sending a message means they have got rid of the problem and the responsibility is with someone else”.

Because of e-mail’s anonymity, it’s easy to duck confrontation and deny the other person an immediate reaction. Today, e-mail makes it a whole lot easier to tell people something that is unpleasant. Like, “Don’t come into the office tomorrow. You are terminated.”

There’s an even greater risk of people losing critical personal skills. E-Mail doesn’t allow you the ability to read a person’s body language, or to look them in the eye and tell them “no,”.  Nor does it allow you to state a point or argue in a direct, real-time, give-and-take debate.

We are constantly texting, typing, and multi-tasking. We are losing our ability to interpret many important non-verbal signals. Look around you. People aren’t talking, they’re texting on their mobile devices. Because they are constantly engaged in their own world, they are ignoring others around them, and are not fully paying attention.

And what about those of us who use to write personal letters by hand to friends and colleagues? We put pen to paper–preferring personal correspondence over a typed or word-processed letter. Writing a letter forces a certain amount of reflection upon the writer. There's a ritual to it. There’s a dedication of time and effort that has to be put into it, as opposed to the slapdash culture of e-mail, texting, tweeting and other social networking methods some call “communicating”.

E-Mail certainly can be beneficial. But it shouldn’t always replace personal interaction. If it does, there’s a good chance that the next generation will fail to be able to communicate on a person to person level. Imagine the thought.

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