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E-mail 101

Posted Wednesday, June 23, 2010, at 2:47 PM

Technology has made our lives so much easier, hasn't it?

I got to thinking the other day about my office practices of thirty years ago. Daily I would go and get the mail. I would spend thirty minutes opening, reading, and processing it. It was quite easy throwing away the "fourth class" advertisements because they were so obviously wrong!

And, after thirty minutes, I went about doing the important work of the day.

Today I find myself still going to the Post Office and spending about thirty minutes processing the mail. I also find myself spending another ninety minutes opening my e-mail on three separate accounts.

My spam filters are working better than ever but, after I open them, half of what comes through is obviously wrong. People want an immediate response to whatever they've sent. And since e-mail is without cost it seems like everyone sends me e-mail.

I'm getting eighty to one hundred e-mails a day per account, and that's after the spam.

Recently I received the same joke by e-mail by eleven different people from nine different states and one overseas country, all on the same day!

Technology has made our lives so much easier, don't you think?

I serve a congregation with three kinds of people.

One group will e-mail me items and be upset because I haven't responded in ten minutes. One group will e-mail me items only to never know I've responded because their spam filters won't allow my e-mail response to go through. The third group doesn't have e-mail, at all, and never will!

Sometimes I'll use e-mail to ask persons their opinions on things or for a committee to make a decision without having to meet. One group responds within an hour usually. One group never receives the e-mail from me and are upset because they weren't included. One group doesn't have e-mail and wonders why they weren't called by phone (and oh, yes, they do not have voice mail or answering machines).

Technology has made our lives so much easier, you think?

Don't get me wrong; I'm not converting to the Amish faith, although I think their house construction workers are doing a great job on the remodeling of the home across from City Hall! I like technology and don't ever want to go back to the days of snail mail and handwritten letters regarding everything!

And yet ... It hasn't united us but rather separated us into categories of people who aren't always on "the same page." It hasn't given us more time but rather allowed our responsibilities to increase as well as increased the number of people who want to be in contact with us.

It hasn't made our lives easier but rather more ... complex, multi-task oriented, and less focused to a degree.

And therein lies the spiritual dilemma I face regarding this kind of technology.

There are times when I feel overwhelmed by it instead of in charge of it.

Maybe I'm the only one and this isn't an issue to you at all. Or maybe I've just had a bad day and am venting my frustrations this way. Or, maybe you too find yourself surfing through the "technology opportunities" only to feel thrown off your board by this particular wave.

Most religions uphold the importance of our being in charge of our lives. When we're not, we find ourselves in a spiritual crisis of sorts. My fear is that we're becoming numb in this culture of ours by so many technological tsunamis all at once.

And if we're not careful, we may find ourselves drowning ...

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technology CAN make life easier, but technology is like everything else just a tool. For what purpose it will be used is - as always - depending on the human - and his/her intentions - who's using it. I think it requires understanding, knowledge and a certain level of self-restraint. One thing that comes in my mind is the forwarding of the gazillion jokes- and "oh, this is so cute"-emails or other expressions/reinforcements of somebody's personal religious/political/ethical point of views.

Unfortunately technology makes it easier to be FASTER in propagating such type of expressions and opinions, which tend to snowball in either good or bad ways with appropriate results. One prominent example is the (in)famous Facebook website and how people using it and the consequential experiences they have through and from it.

How many people nowadays who are utilizing those new technologies that actually WRITE 'full-length' emails, as it was once custom to write full-length letters via 'snail-mail'?

More and more the exchange of ideas and experiences has become "fast-digesting" telegram style.

But then again, technology is a tool - no more, no less, it's how each individual is using it, so bottom line it's up to "us" what we do with it, and how.

-- Posted by think-tank on Wed, Jul 21, 2010, at 11:52 AM

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Sunshine for the Soul
Rev. P.T. Wilson
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P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.
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