I got into a fight. An email fight. It’s not my fault. She started it!
College is particularly an email-based world. Somewhere along the line, email replaced the landline phone and the mailbox, as teachers started emailing homework reminders and the admin served class registration notices via email. Especially for an over-extended student like myself, email is what allows me to balance communication between the triple C: classes, clubs, and cohorts. I rely on email heavily to act as a representative of me. Nevermind the fact that email is going out of style (Email is for Old People), I am good at email. I mean what I write and I try to write what I mean. I carefully choose vocabulary that will best convey the message I am looking for because I don’t have time to meet everyone in person.
And so, today, when I received a “friendly reminder” from an administrator about being careful with email as to respect everyone in the community, I got defensive. Of course I am careful about what I write. I blog which makes me about fifty times more sensitive to these things because anything I write is public and forever public. My words can be used against me. Email is just a continuation of that sphere and so, even when frustrated and angry, I write with the utmost care in shaping my message.
And that is where I think there may exist a schism in age and the use of technology. Entitlement Generation kids like me don’t see an issue with using email to express ideas, concerns, needs, or wants. Older generations seem to have problems with this and, truthfully, I don’t have a definitive answer why. Any ideas?
Email is for more than just administrative shuffling. I’m not advocating it take over face-to-face deliberation, but I think it is a valid medium for parsing out solutions and debating. And it is okay to get angry and heated via email so long as you know you are angry and heated. If it is your intention to write an email that expresses frustration, then it is acceptable to write one that sounds like you are frustrated. The only issue is if you write an email out of emotion (heat to of the moment?) and you don’t realize you’re writing it that way. That is when it gets tricky. That is when one must be careful. I certainly am not immune to writing under emotional duress, but I am more aware than most.
Moreover, emails get misread, misinterpreted all the time (a majority of communication is body language, the one thing missing from an email) but still, people should not be afraid of email as a place to put issues out into the open, preferably with a little emotion too.