Friday, September 17, 2010

Faster than a speeding bullet and just as deadly

As a longtime sports staffer at a regional newspaper, I’ve grown accustomed to complaints.

Why didn’t we cover the game of (insert name of preferred local high school team) on Friday night? Why wasn’t the name of my son (or daughter) mentioned in the story? He (or she) is just as good as (fill in the blank)!

Cries of favoritism and bias, antipathy and partiality.

The advent of e-mail has made it much worse  —  on countless levels.

Before e-mail became commonplace, a person with a complaint had to take the time to sit down, think (well, somewhat) and write an actual letter, then go to the effort of finding a stamp and mailing the letter. Or the person with a complaint had to pick up the phone and prepare (or brace) for an actual conversation with a live person with the ability to respond.

Not so with e-mail.

E-mail is instant rudeness, instant thoughtlessness, instant crassness.

Quite often, the person harboring a complaint is angry or feeling unjustly treated, both emotions that lend themselves to hasty, brash and —  at least occasionally,  I hope —  promptly regretted e-mails.

From the book “Woe Is I,” chapter "E-mail Intuition," heading “A Civil Tongue”
E-mail can turn the nicest person into a tactless lout. It’s the nature of the medium. Unlike a phone call or an in-the-flesh conversation, an electronic message lacks the vocal nuances, the give-and-take, the body English that do so much to soften the sharp edges of a poorly chosen word. ...
All in all, it’s easier to inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings in an e-mail than in a letter, a phone call, or a face-to-face talk. ...
Next time you log on and enter the ozone, don’t check your manners at the portal.

Of course, I'm nowhere near certain that manners and sports fans can coexist that well, but it's been more than 17 years and I haven't abandoned hope.

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