LondonLetterbox2013

Some time ago my eldest son wanted something from me. I said: “Just let me finish one more email”. He said: “There is always another email…”

And I thought: he is right too! Because emails are so immediate and convenient and they take almost no effort to send – there IS always ANOTHER EMAIL.

I am old enough (and old-fashioned enough) to have grown up with the art of letter writing. I was taught to reply to every letter, to put “Dear Madam/Sir” at the top of the letter (well actually it was Beste Mijnheer/Mevrouw”” – because I learned to write in Dutch!) and to sign off with proper salutations and my name.

Now I suspect that the ‘modern generation’ (meaning people in their late teens or twenties today) have long jettisoned this. They write incomprehensible text messages like “C U L8er” and often don’t even sign them – I suppose they expect the other person’s phone to recognise whom the message is from.

The thing is: our inbox can easily become our ‘to do list’ and if we fall into that trap, it means that our priorities are set by other people. It also means that our work is never done and that we are always ‘on call’.

Personally I am a great believer in switching off computers and unplugging phones (so I can paint, read, think, play the cello…) but my resident teenager prefers to think that computers are ‘the height of relaxation’. I suppose the difference between us is that he isn’t holding down any professional life just yet! He never checks his emails either and I suppose people have stopped writing him emails. His grandmothers certainly have! They write to me now with the request that I do print outs for the children.

My children tell me that ‘e-mails are old fashioned’: too slow and cumbersome. (The ‘cool’ thing is SMS-ing or messaging through social networks or games).

I do not agree with that. I think emails are modern, fast and convenient but I also think that one can ignore many emails or take them as ‘read’. (Facebook has a button for that: mark as read – so people know you received their message but you are not replying! A cool feature and a polite way of putting a stop to a conversation!)

For years now I have been trying to keep up with my emails and just recently I realised I have “lost the race”. I read mails and intend to reply to them later – but more demands come in and I forget. Or I have more important things to do, frankly, and I can’t face trawling through yesterday’s emails all over again.

I realise that I could  either be a bit “OCD” (obsessive compulsive) about this or simply see it as a new sport or even art form: how many emails in a day could I NOT respond too, yet the world (MY world!) will keep on turning and I won’t lose friends or professional opportunities.

The answer is: “MOST”! Emails are like rabbits: they merrily breed future generations of emails.

So… I have already mastered The Art of Unplugging the Phone and The Art of NOT upgrading my Mobile Phone to an I Phone….  my next challenge is THE ART OF NOT REPLYING TO EMAILS!

(And I am going to be computer-free in Iceland in the days to come, so here is an immediate opportunity to practice!)

Imelda Almqvist

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