Saturday, October 16, 2004

Email: Uniter or Divider?

Over the last several years, email has become a more and more mainstream method of communication. There is no doubt that email has made daily communication between faraway parties extremely convenient. However, there is a school of thought out there that says that while email may allow for quantity communication, it really does not facilitate quality, meaningful discussions.

So, the question is: Is email a uniter or a divider?

I've thought about this question for quite some time, and I have reached the conclusion that it depends on the individual.

On one hand: If you are the kind of person who is willing to sit down and write a well-crafted piece of prose from your hotmail account, then email exchanging is really no different than the age-old practice of corresponding by letter. In fact, email is in some ways superior to mailing letters because there is no lag time in waiting for a response. Email allows for well thought out use of the written word that is capable of being responded to within hours or even minutes.

On the other hand: Email does not provide the human contact element of voice-to-voice contact that you get with a phone call. Phone calls do not give the recipient the time to respond to you on their own terms when they know what they really want to tell you, but this can add to the authenticity of phone communication. It is true that phone calls and email do not have to be an either-or thing. However, in reality, email can give the illusion of keeping in touch while years go by without the two people actually speaking to each other.

So, I guess there is no real conclusion to this post. Email can be both an uniter and a divider, depending on how it is used and the communication style of the users. I'd be interested in seeing some comments on this topic.