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Overcoming Email Addiction and Other Virtual Obligations

It seems funny for me to write about this, given my leadership role in Jewcology. And I still believe in the power of social media. But I am writing here to acknowledge: I'm addicted to email.

Here's how a typical day looks. I wake up in the morning; I pull out my smartphone. I'm checking (sometimes responding to) email before getting out of bed. (The benefit of this is that I don't go back to sleep… because the stress of my day takes hold.) I get dressed; I take a look at my email. I'm eating breakfast and checking facebook. I'm on the way to work (on the subway), checking email.

Throughout it all is a low level of anxiety, which sometimes peaks when I get the "wrong" kind of email. (You know the one I mean.) Then, high level of anxiety until an email is sent and I get one back, to assure myself everything is fixed. I get hundreds of emails each day; some of them junk, some things I really need to read, and many action items. More action items than I could keep up with — unless I dedicated the whole of every day to email.

It's hard to imagine sometimes that only fifteen years ago, email was a new idea. I remember trying to explain the internet to my parents. I remember their interest (and confusion) when the big companies started listing their websites on commercials. Ah, innocent days.

Acknowledging the addiction is the first step. And although it's not possible to really go "cold turkey" when it comes to the primary way people communicate with me, I can say this: today, I did not check email until 10:25 pm.

I talked to dozens of real people and a couple of close friends by phone. I went to an engagement party to help a new couple celebrate. I got my watch fixed; and my glasses; and I bought a birthday present for my son's friends, and a holiday present for my mailman. I spent time with my family. I cooked food from the CSA which was just beginning to wilt. And… I recorded my video for the Jewcology Collaborative Video. (You can be famous! Check it out!)

When I opened my inbox, I found about 50 emails (light because it's a Sunday). There were a number of good emails, which I was happy to get and required no action. There were a few that called for immediate attention, a few that can wait. I was able to deal with many of them. And for the rest, there's tomorrow. It's OK to remember, now and then, that there's tomorrow.

If you're a person who's addicted to email, obviously, you can't just quit cold turkey. There are people writing to you, and they deserve (and have come to expect) your attention. But there are other things in the "real world" that need attention too.

So after I spend my time on Jewcology, I'm going to spend some time with the real people and real life that I love. I'm imagining a more disciplined approach that involves checking email a couple of times a day, or maybe dedicating an hour specifically for this purpose. I'm going to give it a try. Because, as we know, the real world is precious, too.

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1 Comment
1 Reply
  • Deborah Klee Wenger
    December 20, 2010 (3:36 am)

    Another reason that Shabbat is so precious! Full-stop rest for 25 hours from email, television, radio, commuting. We are “here” and “now” and present-awareness has a chance to grow a little bit more.


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