Email separation anxiety

As we’ve grown accustomed to having Internet access at all times, we’ve come to expect and rely on it. So it’s not surprising that when the broadband connection goes down, the 3G network fades out, or the email client is acting up, a certain anxiety can set in. Some psychologists have even coined a whimsical term for it: “discomgoogolation.”

Clinical monitoring of heavy web users revealed their brain activity and blood pressure increased markedly when they were cut off. The stress of being disconnected was equivalent to that of running half an hour late for a key meeting, being about to sit an important exam or, in the worst cases, being sacked.

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Navigating conflicts by email

For a long time, I would advise people never to hold emotionally charged conversations by email, because the lack of nonverbal or even vocal cues in a typed message remove too much crucial information from the communication.

My thinking is a little more nuanced now, and it’s useful to consider both the benefits and the shortcomings of email, especially when you’re trying to work through an interpersonal conflict. If you’re feeling angry, anxious or overly negative about a problem with another person, you should consider some of the unique aspects of email and decide whether this method of communication is right for your situation.

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