The Other Side of E-Mail by Robert Kuttner
“Like all new media, e-mail has a dark side.” (Robert Kuttner) As I read Kuttner’s article, “The Other Side of E-mail,” I was wondering what kind of dark side email could possibly have. Email has become an important tool for daily communication in the contemporary world. Personally, I prefer to use email instead of phones and texts because I can easily attach large files and/or countless pictures in email, functions that allow email to be superior to the two other means. In his article, Kuttner states that email creates a pseudo-urgency that requires an immediate response from the recipient and that it is not secure because people can send messages to wrong people because of something as simple as a typo. I disagree with his arguments. Most people that I know check their emails once or twice a week. In fact, some of my friends have thousands of unread emails left in their inboxes for weeks. People only check their messages when they have free time. Moreover, when one sends an email to an incorrect email address by mistake, email systems, such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail, deliver a “Mail Failure” notice so that one knows that the email got to the wrong place. Even though I do not concur with Kuttner’s perspective on email, I must admit that email has reduced face-to-face interactions between people. People seldom sit down and talk to each other in person now. Email communication causes people to feel more distant to each other. And perhaps that is the true dark side of email.
Kuttner does make some very observant points about e-mail. In an e-mail, tone cannot be understood the exact way a person intends it to be read. Kuttner describes an incident with a friend where insults were exchanged because of a misconception of a tone in the e-mail. This can very easily happen when exchanging e-mails, but this can also happen on the phone or in person. Tone can be understood in many instances. It all depends on the relationship between the two individuals interacting. Also, Kuttner points out how public and exposed e-mails can be. Yet, people need to use their discretion in any circumstances when divulging important personal information, not just through e-mail. Kuttner forgets that human discretion is a major part in the use of e-mail.
Kuttner says that email is “tone deaf and too instant.” I have to agree with the tone deaf part, because a conversation is 25% what you say and 75% body language and how you say it. In email, you lose that 75%. Sure, certain phrases can set a certain mood, but the tone is entirely up to the reader’s perception. The recepient has to imagine the other 75% of the conversation, and who is going to correct it? Perhaps that one liner would have different meaning if the emphasis was on a different word, but how would you know?
That being said, I don’t think email is too instant. Different emails serve different purposes. Take at look at my email/facebook inbox, for example: there’s a message from my friends about planning a trip to visit another friend, a note from my sister saying we should get our dad an adorable light up snowman decoration for his birthday this weekend, various notifications from email lists I am on, and the occasional You Have Won A $1,000 Gift Card From Wal-Mart notice.
The message about the trip is a way to coordinate an event between four of us that haven’t seen each other in months, so that we don’t play phone tag and can catch up on each other’s lives – our schedules don’t match up for us to all be in one place at one time.
My sister’s note was a quick joke that served its purpose of giving me a laugh (and reminding me about my dad’s birthday).
The numerous mails from groups I get inform me about the latest updates – I read those at my leisure, glad to have a constant source of information.
And the spam is, well, spam.
The point is, when Kuttner says email is too instant, he ignores all its different uses, lumping them together into one general category. Basically, yes, email does have that Other Side, but only when you abuse its different purposes.
In other words, instead of actually taking the time to write a letter to a friend through the mail, one can send an e-mail that takes about three seconds opposed to three or more days. In the article “The Other Side of E-Mail,” author Robert Kuttner explains the other side of email and technology, the dark side. Kuttner says that although, technology offers us many conveniences, such as being able to send and receive messages instantly, it brings along many drawbacks, such as privacy infringement. I agree with Kuttner’s thoughts on these downsides of technology.
In my opinion, internet and email technology has definitively made our lives easier, but it has put our personal information at risk, significantly limited privacy, and leads to a waste of our time on a daily basis. Kuttner describes several negative effects of messaging technology. First one is that we might waste too much time in the E-mail and our privacy might be compromised. Social networking sites, like Facebook, have gotten users hooked on to the internet as if it were a drug. Almost every person I can think of has a Facebook account now days.
One of our assignments for Tuesday was to read Robert Kuttner’s article “The Other Side of E-Mail”. Kuttner argues that email is “… tone-deaf and all too instant.”. I strongly disagree with Kuttner’s view. Perhaps because I have used email for years, I put a great deal of thought into my emails. I also I believe that most adults today put as much thought into an email as they would writing a letter. Kuttner seems to think that email is far too informal, but I think that email is one of the more formal ways that people (especiall young people) today communicate. Text messages, facebook messages, and instant messages are far more informal and insecure means of communication.