Today, my Mail application left me. It literally (well, not literally) died on me, with no notice, no warning and absolutely no regard for the calendar, which carelessly read Wednesday, december 30th. When I woke up this morning, the inbox folder was just an empty, cold, blank space. Everything, and by everything I mean EVERYTHING, was just gone. Disappeared. Bermuda-triangulated.
Now, I am no noob at technology, and from past experience I have learned to keep my good share of backups, both cloud based and on solid state memories. So what I did was to start from scratch and rebuild all of my folders, pulling messages from here and there. Here’s to you, Time Machine, Western Digital and iCloud.
It is a strange feeling you get when you try and put back together 5 years of emails, messages, drafts, sent projects and office banter between coworkers. Things come back, memories, reminders, old jokes now lost and gone. It’s melancholy, version 2.0. I’m digitally homesick. So, after a while of browsing past of hundreds of useless messages, I decided I’d take the hard way and download every message from the server again. Yeah, like, alright dude, show me what you’ve got. Boom.
In some 9 hours of syncing, my mail client dowloaded 107.675 messages. Yes, you read that right. That’s one-hundred-and-seven-thousand-six-hundred-seventy-five. All of a sudden I was shocked at the size of the thing. The numbers, the cold, hard numbers, more than the content of the messages themselves, impressed me. With no hesitation, I deleted every message before January, 1st, 2015 so that I could focus only on the last year of conversation.
Today, I found out I received 20.665 emails last year.
Again, this is just a number, but there is little doubt it’s impressive. It is more than 56 emails a day. It’s a message every 24 minutes. If you think of it in the daily routine, you might even think this is pretty normal (I mean, I’m 100% sure dozens of thousands of people around the world get even more than that), but if you look at the big picture, this is disheartening. It is too much. We write way too much. The thing is wearing us out.
And, what is worse, these days you get notified anytime, anywhere, on any device. You receive an email and everything beeps, rings, buzzes, vibrates, turns on or flashes. Your phone, your laptop, your desktop computer, your iPad, your Apple Watch, your connected fitness wristband. Twenty one thousand times a year. We can’t be serious about that. We don’t even drink water at that ratio. We don’t kiss, smile, hug, laugh, pray, eat, sleep, walk, talk, fall in love or cry 56 times a day.
This is bad communication, to say the very least. It is time consuming, confusing, highly fragmented, super cluttered. We write poorly, sending each and every line coming to mind, forwarding mediocre conversations we don’t want to be involved in, secretly hoping someone will eventually take care of the hot potato.
Technology made us misinterpret the role of written communication. All this connectivity and all these resources have made getting in touch super easy and uber quick but maybe, just maybe, also affected the way we mean things, the way we write, the way we communicate.
In these 5 emails per hour we send and receive, we care little about good grammar, about decent prose, even about good manners. Try and read a conversation from nine months ago and you’ll find nothing more than a string of RE: RE: RE: FW: containing the idiomatic FYI, TL;DR and the now-typical “Thanks, will let you know”. Seriously, read a thread from one year ago and you will hardly understand a thing. The thing does not make any sense.
Also, they told us brief is the new black. I’m totally Ok with that, I love brief, as long as brief does not stand for poor. Being concise is a very peculiar feature to have, and quite a difficult one as well, if you ask me.
So, here’s one of my new year’s resolutions: to be better at how I communicate, both on the personal and professional side. To write less but better and demand from my colleagues, friends and coworkers the exact same thing.
I have the feeling life (yes, life, and everything it’s made of) could be slightly better if we improved the way we talk to each other, the way we write to each other and finally the way we read and listen to each other. We owe it to ourselves and to our friends and partners to be careful and accurate, saving them time and effort, to be good-mannered and well-timed, to let them have a bit of intimate touch and not only information+information+information, to be more personal and warm, and have a real conversation. To be more human.
I’m looking forward to it already.