What Am I Missing?

Last week, Merlin Mann posted about “email sabbaticals”. I have a decent sized volume of incoming information, but very little of it is personal in nature, so I have a lot of trouble understanding the “email sabbatical” of which he writes. I have trouble imagining somebody getting so much email that it can’t be dealt with in one way or another. I especially have trouble imagining somebody with a livelihood that somehow or other depends on getting personal email from people who suddenly decides to ignore it all and delete it.

I’m wondering if I should share this, but I am hoping to set a goal for the coming year to somehow form relationships with real people. I’m talking the kind of relationships where people call me and invite me over for more than “my computer doesn’t work. Can you look at it?” (I don’t mind those, and will continue to respond to them) and I will feel comfortable calling them to get together without fear of the usual “I’m busy. Maybe another non-specific or non-committed time”. Occasionally my wife and I get invited to a birthday party by a family with children roughly the ages of ours, but for the most part we’re left alone. Our invitations to other people are usually ignored or responded to with a polite decline. I admit I am slightly introverted, and so is my wife, but we really don’t have many friends. I know a lot of people that I enjoy talking to at work and church, but that’s about it. I don’t know if it’s because we worship at a “freeway church” and everyone is more spread out so getting together isn’t very efficient and consumes a lot of time in travel. We’ve considered finding a more local church in the hopes that we might make friends and church events will be more convenient to attend. I also can’t help but wonder if it’s just because we live in New Jersey and I really don’t feel like I fit in here. I’ve had a very hard time making friends since I moved here, and I don’t remember that challenge anywhere else I’ve lived (I’ve lived in a lot of places). I’m not like the other people here. After almost 10 years, I have to wonder if it’s more of a fit in issue than maybe I’m just socially defective.

Anyway, even though I have a lot of information coming in, very little of it is personal. I subscribe to several email newsletters, and I somehow got on the list of others and it’s easier to just delete them all at once than to individually try to cancel them. I can safely ignore or mass-delete most of my email without missing anything if I so choose. I also feel free to ignore incoming calls. If I don’t want to take calls, I shut my phones off. (I have a BlackBerry from work).

Can somebody explain to me what it’s like to get so much email that you have to auto-reply to everyone that “I’m sick of all this email, so I’m taking time off. If you took the time out of your life to email me, that’s just tough and I’m going to ignore it because I get too much email.” Services like gmail come with very powerful labeling and filtering capabilities, so it’s very easy to route email into labels accordingly so it can be dealt with later. I currently get by with my Inbox and 2 labels: Read-Review and Updates-Sales. My newsletters and such are shuffled into Read-Review and email updates for various reasons go into Updates-Sales. It’s very easy to do. When I notice that I get email notifications for too much random BS, I add to my filters again. It takes very little time at all and I read it when I’m able to set aside time.


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