Please Read This Post All the Way to the End

If you don't, you'll just be proving my point about how lazy technology is making us

Here’s the thing. I noticed that all of my posts are pretty damn upbeat. Obnoxiously cheery. Insipidly rosy. One might even say nauseatingly perky. But those people who really know me know that I get pissed off a lot. I get really pissed off, even. And a daily, constant, pet peeve is how lazy e-mail and other technology have made us.

I work in ACADEMIA. In an ENGLISH DEPARTMENT. I edit a LITERARY MAGAZINE.  (The capitalization is meant to signify how angry I am.) Every day, all day, I am stunned by EVERYONE’s inability to thoroughly read e-mails and their habit of firing back questions that were already answered in an earlier e-mail.

The thing is, I am not only talking about students. The other reason for the above capitalization is because most of my communication is with faculty, administrators at arts organizations and my university, and authors PBQ is publishing. That means, people for whom words are kinda, sorta important. Yet, apparently, no one can read.

I think I get more aggravated from the follow-up e-mail asking me questions I already answered than anything else. I send an e-mail with three bullet points, one of them being when and where we’ll be having a meeting.  On the day of the meeting, two of the four people coming to the meeting will invariably write and ask where or when it is, or, sometimes both. The response I wish I could send?  “WTF.”

Now, when a student writes me about a due date, I feel I have every right to say, “Check the syllabus.” Part of my responsibility as a professor is to teach students to be responsible and develop good work habits, right?   But when my peers (or even higher ups) send these types of already answered questions, I cannot say, “Read my first e-mail.”  That would be interpreted as rude; it WOULD be rude. But why is it not rude to 1) not read the first e-mail I sent? 2) be too lazy to look for the first e-mail I sent? 3) suffer (most likely) some combination of the two?

I think I have more sensitivity and lower tolerance for this issue because my office is located very near the elevators and just outside the women’s restroom. This means I am used as the Information Desk of the fifth floor. One hundred percent of the time, and I do mean ONE-HUNDRED PERCENT OF THE TIME, the questions I am asked are questions the asker CAN FIND OUT ON HIS OR HER OWN. (The capitalization is meant to signify how angry I am.)  They are questions like: “Can you tell me when Professor Riggs office hours are?” “Excuse me is the history department on this floor?” And, I kid you not, and this from co-workers, “Is it raining outside?” I AM IN A CINDERBLOCK OFFICE. CINDERBLOCK!

Sometimes, I give these askers my best you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me glare; sometimes I give them my best why-can’t-you-just-disappear death stare. I try to suppress my desire to growl, but I cannot promise you that sometimes, on particularly edgy days, some sound may have come from my throat.  I can assure you that I never, ever, ever answer their questions. Ever.

I just feel like everyone is walking around so absolutely helplessly, so infantile, and new technology is only making things worse; it’s like people can walk down the street and just yell out “I want frozen yogurt” and be led straight to it. Something is wrong with that.

Or go ahead and have your yogurt, I guess, but don’t ask me to repeat myself in an e-mail.  Some of my very best friends– who are also brilliant, of course — have on more than one occasion said, “Oh, I must not have scrolled down the whole way,” when I have responded to a question kindly (I hope), softly (it’s hard) and said, “I told you about that in my last e-mail.”

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, especially since I hope by now you are commiserating with me, but I have over 13,000 e-mails. That is not a typo—not 130, not 1300, 13,000.   You know why?  So that I have records and can look up information I need. I have these 13,000 e-mails in about 120 e-folders. Now, I do not tell you this to convince you to do the same or prove some point other than I LOVE TECHNOLOGY. (The capitalization here indicates emphasis.)

I love e-mail, texting, and digital record keeping. I love that my Outlook is synched to my Blackberry and I can send work related e-mails from train platforms and the gym and grocery stores and the freaking beach! I can put random things in my Notes, like what wine I’m drinking, so I can buy it later or what I need to pick up at the store or even, I cannot believe I’m admitting this, certain clothing combinations that work so I can wear them again. I also LOVE its CALENDAR FUNCTION; it allows me to KEEP TRACK OF MEETINGS. (The capitalization here indicates emphasis.)

Oh, shoot. I wanted this to be negative, pissed off, ranting post and now I got all happy again. Damn my positivity! But, if given the choice between e-communication and, let’s say, modern sewer systems, I would be hard pressed to make a choice. I appreciate both of these modern conveniences, so deeply, I rarely flush a toilet or send a text without saying, “I am so glad to be alive RIGHT NOW.” (The capitalization here is meant to indicate my enthusiasm, damn it.)