The Tyranny of Email

This weekend the IT service for the presbytery office will complete an overhaul of our email system. We will finally be able to sync calendars, perform sophisticated searches, and schedule when we want to send outgoing email. I am very excited and feel this change will increase our efficiency and productivity. To make this happen, email must be shut down for the weekend. From 5:00 pm Friday until Monday morning, the presbytery staff will not have access to email. Both my cell phone (773-320-4381) and Ken Hockenberry’s cell phone (847-910-4517) will be available for emergency calls.
What this shutdown amounts to is an email-free weekend and email holiday! In the book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Oliver Burkeman writes, “Email is that ingenious 20th century invention whereby any random person on the planet can pester you at any time they like at almost no cost to themselves by means of a digital window that sits inches from your nose or in your pocket throughout your working day and on the weekends too.”
According to Burkeman, the real problem with email is the imbalance between the number of emails we receive compared to how many we can respond to. Through email, we may receive an infinite number of messages but can respond thoughtfully and carefully to only so many. I find it difficult to sit and be thoughtful with a response while knowing my inbox is loading up while I’m writing. He compares working to clear the inbox like Sisyphus pushing the boulder to the top of the hill, only to see it roll down to the bottom and having to repeat the task over and over again.
One of the reasons Marilyn and I enjoy cruises (pre-COVID!) is that we are able to disconnect from the world. No phones. No emails. Very slow and bad internet. It’s a time to enjoy the sound of the water, lazy mornings, fun activities, and each other’s company. It’s a time to learn that the world goes on without us.
I’m looking forward to this email holiday weekend. Somehow, I must turn off the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and remind myself that the same God who cares for the birds in the air and lilies in the field, cares for the presbytery too. Even when email is off!

Rev. Craig M. Howard