Thursday, November 20, 2008

No Email Day

According to his staff, once Barack Obama becomes President, he'll probably have to stop sending all those emails he likes to send. Not surprisingly, there are some concerns about email security since it seems like everybody but me knows how to hack into someone else's email. In addition, the Presidential Records Act requires that all correspondence of a President must be made part of the public record. Obviously, we don't need to have hours and hours of him saying things like, "Love you, too," or "Who won the game?" in the Smithsonian. So, it looks like he'll be hanging up the old Blackberry – his emailing, phone calling, Internet checking, etc. device.

It's ironic to cut Obama off from the Internet since the Internet was such an important part of his campaign – and of his victory. It also seems somewhat unfair. I mean, if he's comfortable communicating this way, should he really have to stop? He was elected President of the United States. It's not like telling your teenage kid to stop using the Internet. And let's put it in an historical perspective: suppose they told Lincoln he could no longer use a pen to draft his speeches? We might never have had the Gettysburg Address.

But as we've seen over and over again, President-elect Obama is a very disciplined man. If he has to give up communicating via the Internet, I'm sure he will. But would you be able to? It might not be as easy as it sounds. I think a lot of us are addicted to writing e-mails, checking our e-mails, sending messages via Facebook or I.Ms., etc.

Here's a simple test to see if you are an Internet messaging addict:

1)You come home from a party. Are you capable of going to bed without checking your messages?

2)In the morning, do you feel you have to check your messages before you eat breakfast?

3)You're having sex when you hear a beep that means you have an incoming message. Do you ignore it, answer it, or try to get the sex over with as soon as possible so you can check the message?

4)When you're bored or waiting for a phone call, do you sometimes send completely unnecessary messages to people, such as: "Call you later," "I'm thinking of getting a haircut," or "I'm really bored?"

5)Do you ever go through your electronic address book, looking for people you haven't sent messages to lately, and then send them a message like those in Question 4?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you could be an Internet messaging addict. If you answered "Yes" to Question #3, your relationship is also in trouble.

I'm not saying that this is necessarily a dangerous addiction. What I am saying is that many of us waste a lot of time doing this and could probably cut down on it.

Here's my proposal. Even if you're not an addict, why don't we all show some solidarity with the President-elect by having a No Email Day? Let's all just stop using email for one day. (And by email, I also mean all the other electronic ways people communicate, so don't be a wise guy and think you can keep I.M.-ing). These are difficult times for our country, and by doing this we can demonstrate that we are capable of making sacrifices.

You get to pick your own day for your No Email Day. We don't all have to do it on the same day. That way, you can pick a Sunday when you know you won't need to send messages for work, or a Wednesday when you know you won't have to send messages about last night's football game.

A few years ago, most of us were spending zero minutes a day emailing. Surely, we can go back to that for just one day, especially if Obama is going to be refraining for at least four years. I'm going to set a good example, by starting things off. Right when I finish this column, I'm going to stop sending and checking on electronic messages for 24 hours. Ready, set, go!

Okay, okay. I admit it. I only lasted 20 minutes. In a moment of weakness, I walked back to my computer, and once I was there, the next thing I knew I was checking on my email. (No new messages, by the way). Well, I guess it proves one thing: Now we know I'll never be able to be President.


  1. This humorous article nonetheless has a substantial ring of truth to it. We are becoming a society of OCD-afflicted time-wasters.

    There are many subcategories of this affliction, and some may have multiple afflictions simulatneously:

    (1) IM'ers (You'd rather burn out your hard drive than turn off the IM status. Also, you can't get homework or office work done because you'd would rather chit-chat.)

    (2) Text messagers and cellphoners. (I put my son's 3000 minutes per month into this category, and I'd like to suspend his and my stepdaughter's account until they can pay up the 600 dollar overrage fees for last month.)

    (3) Forum posters. (Checking favorite forum message boards every 10 minutes all day long. Will spend 3 hours trying to find some obscure photo to photoshop so you can inspire a laugh among your OCD-comrades.)

    (4) Incessant BLOGGERS. (Sort of replaces the old fashioned diary, but kills two birds with one stone -- you can obsess with the details of your own life and also be an attention-Ho, which in the old days took two separate efforts.)

    (5) Compulsive Myspace users and Facebook users. (This also kills 2 birds with one stone - attention-Ho as well as social planning, albeit with a less urgent responsiveness than texting or IM'ing.)

    (6) Compulsive news readers or specialty hobby surfers. (This can satisfy your political thirst, stereo enthusiast's interest, and medical hypochondria all at once.)

    (7) Compulsive shoppers. (An old compulsion, just made a lot easier and efficient.)

  2. I need to go into computer rehab for numbers 3 and 6. In fact, I regularly scramble my own passwords until I eventually cave in and request that a new one be emailed to me. Sort of like cutting back on coffee, I now only allow myself one website per distraction, which prevents chaining together an entire day of time-wasting. At least this way there are a few productive minutes in-between.

  3. No question - I'm addicted and I dont care!
    Now... what about Congress' emails, and all other Government ppl, for that matter?
    Are *they public records, too? Or was that just some law Congress pased to get back at some President or other?

  4. LLoyd. You could never be President for a multiplicity of reasons having nothing to do with emailing.


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