Reflections on E-mail

by Steven Aoki
September 28, 1998
GRC 433 (Emerging Digital Trends)--Roger Siminoff
Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo

In my humble opinion, the transition from voice, telephone, and post office mail to e-mail has signified the most revolutionary analog-to-digital conversion in my personal life. E-mail has virtually maximized my correspondence with friends and family. Its greatest benefits: the ability to perfect larger outgoing messages with nearly instantaneous delivery.

In audio discourse, no safety exists--occasionally I broadcast thoughts too flippantly or awkwardly pause between them. Furthermore, emotions and real-time composition often hinder my arguments. In e-mail discourse, I can think without pressure and hone my sentences to sound as intelligent as I possibly can--all at my own convenience or if I desire, not at all. But on the other side of this double-edged sword, e-mail has dismantled the positives of oral communication: the ability to seize a listener's undivided attention, the subtleties of somber sarcasm (the sideways :) fails to capture it), or facial expressions to convey emotion. E-mail has robbed me of those useful devices.

E-mail's nearly instantaneous delivery has increased the frequency of my correspondence tremendously, but has carried one drawback. In the past, I've e-mailed inflammatory messages in the heat of the moment and have regretted it. I confess I find it much easier to do that than to risk retaliation by insulting someone to their face. Fortunately, I've learned to control these urges by forcing myself to postpone inflammatory messages and then edit them later. In this aspect, e-mail parallels the other communication mediums.

Finally, the capacity for large e-mails has allowed me to deliver a huge spectrum of informative documents with ease. And while I've benefited from the mass information, I've also had to struggle through its overwhelming saturation upon me. I do propose one suggestion to help remedy this: prohibit spamming!