E-mail was a novelty when Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) logged on to her laptop in the opening scene of the 1998 hit romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail.” A mere decade later, e-mail is a cornerstone of modern communications. But a growing body of research suggests we’ve yet to adapt our social behaviors to fit with an era where every message we send is next to impossible to digitally erase.
It’s 4:18 p.m. on Tuesday. Your afternoon meeting ran late and a Post-it note on your keyboard reads “proposal status?” Proposal? S&*#! That’s due tomorrow, isn’t it? You check your e-mail inbox. Unread messages: 837. One of them, you think, might have the details. Which one? The phone rings. It’s your child’s teacher. There’s a problem. Can you meet at 5 p.m.? Today?
Sound familiar? Stressed out? Most of us have been there – that awful feeling of too much to do and no time to do it. Our fix? We make a promise to get organized … someday. But how?
E-mail is a nuisance for Mike Geile, as it is for many people. But his beef is different than most. The 36-year-old carpenter from Ketchum, Idaho, doesn’t have an electronic post office box. Nevertheless, every day someone – a friend, relative, co-worker, bill collector, store clerk – asks for it.
“I don’t have one,” he tells them.
“What?” they say.
How rich are your new neighbors? Who just called your phone? Want to pretend you’re somebody else? There’s an Internet technology out there to collect the information you need. And even if you’re not interested, an identity thief, marketing company, government snoop or nosy neighbor can surf the Web and probably find out about you.
Professors debate whether laptops are a help or hindrance in the classroom.