In "The Tyranny of Email: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox", John Freeman explains how globalization, the concept of "now," and the synchronization of time have robbed us of a sense of leisure, personal and private life, the importance of local events, and even identity.
Disclaimer: Yes, I realize the irony of writing about the perils of the Internet while on the Internet. Also: I love Skyping with friends and family across the world, and I know email's an invaluable (and addictive) tool... I just like to occasionally assess my use of it, and I found Freeman's history of mail fascinating.
Here are some eye-opening tidbits from the book:
* Long before instant messages, texts, and Tweets, the postcard was blamed as the reason for the end of elegant composition; the "reason our daughters write like housemaids and express themselves like schoolboys." (Ha!)
* Oscar Wilde's telegram to his publisher, regarding book sales: "?"
The response: "!"
* 65% of North Americans spend far more time with their computer than their spouse.
* Because emails tend to look the same (and are read on a screen) there's no tactile sensation in the communication. In the past, different paper was used (formal letters used to be printed on heavy stock; telegrams with dire news were rimmed with black around the edges as a warning).
Want more? Check out Freeman's Manifesto for Slow Communication in the Wall Street Journal, from which I culled this: "The speed at which we do something -- anything -- changes our experience of it...not all judgments benefit from a short frame of reference... We need time in order to properly consider the effect of what we say upon others. We need time to shape and design and filter our words..."
(Good thing Google added that "unsend" button ;)