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Tyrannical Email

All right, confess. Do you feel nervous and anxious if you haven’t checked your e-mail in the past five minutes? Do you experience a thrill when you see you have new messages waiting, or a pang of disappointment when there’s nothing new? Do you put your iPhone or Blackberry under the pillow and check it for messages last thing at night and first thing in the morning?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, don’t be ashamed. You’re not alone. According to author and editor John Freeman, many of us are addicted to e-mail. In his new book, The Tyranny of E-Mail, he confesses:

“Six months before beginning this book, I was receiving two to three hundred messages a day. I would log on in the morning and watch new e-mail march down my Outlook screen with a small bubble of joy -- I was needed! -- and a mountain of dread: if I didn’t respond to these messages, I would offend people, miss out on some key piece of business, add to the ever-increasing backlog of messages that was growing like a mulch pile in leaf season.”

The Tyranny of E-Mail provides a wealth of fascinating and frightening statistics about the e-mail deluge:

  • 35 trillion e-mail messages were sent in 2007
  • 300 million messages are sent every minute
  • the average corporate worker in the United States spends 40% of their workday sending and receiving an average 200 e-mails
  • 62 percent of Americans check their e-mail on vacation
  • 67 percent of them say they’ve checked their e-mail in bed


(On a local note, Freeman says that in 1986, 1,500 students and faculty at Simon Fraser University were using e-mail, sending between 10,000 and 20,000 messages each month. Twenty years later, there were more than 40,000 e-mail accounts at SFU, and users were sending 10 million e-mails per month, a 14,000 percent increase.)

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