“E-mail has overtaken us without our really understanding what it is.” An e-mail message can be conveyed and understood by words, and thus it is arbitrary or irresponsible. How it reads is entirely left up to the receiver, who does not know how serious it is, in what occasion the sender wrote it, or whether or not it is what the sender really means.
On the other hand, our talk is not only exchanging information, but it is also saying something about our relation or attitude toward each other. Talking is the major way we establish, maintain, monitor, and adjust our relationship.
E-mail ignores and lacks this aspect; people are emotionally involved with each other. With this aspect neglected, we are less and less conscious that we are social beings and that we need to communicate/respond to social meanings, by which we connect with each other.
Human beings need to be connected to others and also need to be left alone. Our human contact is based on the tacit recognition of these needs. Thus, we communicate with each other politely, not irresponsibly. In other words, we learn from our daily lives that we are social creatures as well as individual creatures and what human contact should be like.
E-mailing ignores social meanings, which implies that the more accustomed to e-mail we are, the more oblivious we are to other people’s feelings and the more indifferent we are about how we establish and maintain our relationship.
Receiving an e-mail message, the receiver interprets it by the meanings of words. Possibly, his/her interpretation contradicts what the sender means. However, the receiver does not have enough time to think about it or reflect upon it later because the next message is already on the screen. The both sides, the sender and the receiver, think that communication is done; actually nothing is done.
E-mail can be compared to copy. The invention of copy machines brought about significant changes in our life. Copying is convenient just like e-mailing. Copy machines save us a lot of time to write. They cut out the process of writing by hand. What does it mean? During the process of writing, we can communicate with the writer on our mind, think about what the writer means, and try to understand it. It requires considerable time and efforts, but we think and establish a kind of relationship with the writer. On the other hand, during the process of copying, we need not think, but just wait. When we read the copy once or twice, we think that we understand it. That is an illusion. We just receive information, but we never understand it. Copying stops us from thinking. It does not give us enough time to stop and think, nor does e-mailing. E-mail requires drastic changes in our life without our understanding what changes are being brought about. The changes can endanger the nature of human contact, making our communication superficial, making us insensitive to other people’s feelings, and making it hard for us to establish and maintain an adequate relationship with each other. Also, they force our ability to process information to change. Information is flooding in, and we are forced to process it as fast as possible. So when we read a message, we think that we understand it. Do we really understand it? No, that is an illusion. Our thought stops. But we cannot stop because another message awaits us in the next moment. We have to understand what e-mail really is and that e-mail has serious implications for our life. Before being addicted to it, stop and think about it. Once you accept it, you cannot think.