Re: my addiction to e-mail

Hi, my name is James, and I’m an e-mail-a-holic (all: “Hiiii James”). That’s right, I have a problem, and it’s not a habit I’m likely to kick any time soon.

I started thinking about this recently when replies to my grad school applications started coming in. Not surprisingly, Oxford turned me down in a polite and encouraging letter. McGill did the same, but in a few short lines, and by e-mail. E-mail!

To me, that seemed exceptionally cheap and borderline offensive, and I began to wonder why. Virtually all of my written correspondence is via electronic messages, and I can’t ignore the fact I find it impossible to imagine doing my current job at the Journal without it.

I suppose it’s a necessary evil. I now have five e-mail accounts that I check regularly. And when I say regularly, what I really mean to say is obsessively.

I have a professor who warned us at the beginning of the term that she only checks her e-mail once a day. She’d decided to cut herself off. And while I admire that kind of self-restraint, her addiction obviously had nothing on mine.

I laughed when the verdict in the trial involving RIM, makers of the popular Blackberry, loomed in the news. The sneering derision of columnists about the anxieties of so-called “Crackberry addicts” amused me. But I’m no better. If you want to follow their seedy metaphor to its conclusion, I’m the kind of guy who has a kilo of QLink and a box of Gmail syringes nearby at all times.

My parents stubbornly refused to familiarize themselves with either e-mail or computers for an impressively long time, but they both eventually caved. And like that shady friend, I was happy to show them the way, to give them their first taste and leave them at its mercy.

The annoying part of the habit is that most of the mail I get is disappointing. No, I don’t need cheap Viagra. No, my non-existent bank account at the bank I don’t use has not suffered a security breach, so you can’t have my password. And no, I will not be able to retain my sanity if I’m forced to have another meeting with the intramural office about my hockey team’s latest alleged improprieties.

Yet still, I’m back at the keyboard, hammering in my password. It’s a great credit to IBM that the six keys needed to enter it on my laptop still work.

Perhaps venerable McGill has opened my eyes. As my last few weeks at Queen’s wind down, perhaps I will symbolically Kill McGill one last time by writing a letter—by hand—to the only people I can think of who haven’t been infected by this electronic plague-cum-miracle: my grandparents.

It will probably only be a quick fix, though, a morale-booster much like a quickly ignored new year’s resolution. If you pay close attention to a particular episode of Family Guy, you’ll find in the background a liquor store called “The Thirteenth Step.” I fear that, as far as I’m able to take my rehab, I already know what my thirteenth step will be: Facebook.

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