Monday, September 22, 2008

E-mail E-tiquette, e-tc. Sybil Adelman Sage

The "reply all" e-mail option, a time-saver when used appropriately, makes me feel terribly shabby when one of the human rights activists in my study group explains to us all, "I'll have to miss the next class because I'll be building wells in Cambodian villages." Only the person buying the wine and cheese needs a head count. For me, the effect of "reply all" is hours and hours of reassuring myself it's okay that I'm not building wells and will be here, probably drinking bottled water yet.

E-vites, too, have invaded areas once private. Asking, "Who else is coming?" is rude, yet an E-vite shows the entire invitation list, who's coming, who's turned them down and who's holding out for something better.

Spam is something most of us have mastered. We know better than to provide information to someone purporting to want to share an inheritance from a plantation owner who died in a tragic car accident in Nigeria leaving no next of kin and we don't believe old classmates are looking for us or anyone is wanting to send an online greeting card.

Communicating on the Internet requires us to be more cautious, double checking before we hit "send" to be sure the boss we're dissing won't get the e-mail. Our servers try to be helpful by filling in a name once we enter the first letter, and there must be legions of relationships that have been destroyed because of this "convenience." A son who came upon, "Love you too" in an instant message intended for his father reported what he'd found, ending a 24-year marriage.

TIVO asks, "Are you sure?" forcing you to take a moment to reconsider if you really want to delete a show you've taped. I'd be happy to sacrifice "reply all" in favor of "are you sure?"

"Are you sure?" is a step we should use more routinely. If I'd paused to ask that, not only might I not have made a non-refundable reservation at an eco-lodge with no electricity, but there are desserts I would have skipped, boots I'd not have bought and advice I'd have kept to myself.

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