Thursday, October 1, 2009

Are You E-gnoring Me?

The beginning of the academic year is full of excitement and activity. Especially activity. There's all that frantic prep to get courses ready for students (completing syllabi, posting readings, organizing lectures). Then your Fall meeting schedule starts to kick-in, and you end up spending late nights doing all the reading and writing that's no longer possible during daylight hours. I get it. I've been there. Truth be told, I'm marooned there right now.

If you have any "televisual interests" (i.e., if you are even the mildest of TV-Junkies), the new Fall season has started, and the shows you forgot about are clamoring for your distracted attention.

Many academics want to have their cake and eat it, too. We spend our summers hunkered down trying to make major headway on our research projects (which, for me, meant editing the first rough cut of an ethnographic film on violence in Jamaica and starting to gain momentum on my next book, an examination of Black Hebrewism/s). But we still want to maintain at least a bit of that scholarly momentum after the start of the Fall semester. And all of this is piled on top of things like childcare and/or romantic relationships and/or all the other substantive stuff of life convincing us that it's worth living.

Of course, something has to give. And for many academics, the composite "something" includes diligence about email correspondences.

And I get it. I'm notorious for delayed responses to emails. There are many folks who could tell you that. So, I am the last person who has the right to get upset when his own email queries drop into that cyber vortex reserved for unrequited letter-writing, a veritable black hole of avoided emaildom.

Many of us abuse emails, which means that others of us feel inundated by too many of them, most of it Internet litter (or worse) that requires disposal.

And what more than hubris allows any of us to assume that we'll get an email response back from someone we haven't even met, or don't know very well. For all we know, it probably just landed in their hyper-filtering "junk-mail" box.

But what about friends and colleagues who don't respond? You've sent off what you imagine to be an urgent or personal or detailed message, carefully crafted, about some topic of importance to you and, hopefully, them (not the forwarding of spam-infected jokes that some supposed cyber-friends propagate). But you get nothing back. Not after a day. Not after two days. Or a week. Or two weeks. Eventually, after a month or two, you just happen to remember, in a flash, that you never heard from them at all. "Hey, s/he never got back to me?" Not even an automated confirmation that it was received and opened, which is some small consolation for the cyber-dissed.

What is the proper response to such e-gnoring? Am I the only one keeping a list of such offenders--for some subsequent moment of non-cyber reckoning?


Jason T said...

I follow up with another email after a few days (to a week), often acknowledging that maybe the person didn't get my message due to email trouble on my end (which, when I was in graduate school, was entirely possible).

For repeat offenders, I just use the phone whenever possible, even for things I'd rather be emailing.

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