(This blog was originally posted in July 2010 but, as if to demonstrate my computer illiteracy, I pushed the wrong button and deleted it..........so I'm now restoring it in the only way I know how.)
The closer we grow together, be it in marriage or friendship, we reveal our hot buttons. The relationship evolves as those sensitivities are respected and handled with care.
Now I must write that on the blackboard a few hundred times and maybe I'll learn to follow it.
What is it about e-mail? It seems to call out for a hasty response and can be the carrier of blurts. It offers the illusion of a parting shout at a distance, with impunity, across a chasm. It's a conversation without an immediate retort. However it lacks the tone, inflection and facial language that happens in conversation. The wagging tongue on the page might actually be lodged firmly in a cheek. E-mail is a dangerous toy. One man's chuckle may be another's poison. Even acting as conduit demands caution and discretion.
Though it is over twenty years old we still don't quite know the rules of engagement; the ethics or the full potential and perils inherent.
If telephone voices were transcribed to the page the benign banter or jocularity might well be lost. It begs the question about the nature of the way we communicate in this age of text-messaging and tweets.
Looking back at the 19th century of belles lettres I suspect literacy was less pervasive and more prized. Words were carefully chosen, weighed and measured and nothing was more admired than a well-turned phrase. I'm sure Oscar Wilde got many free meals for the price of a bon mot. But if someone misspoke it might mean pistols at daybreak.
Today we have a population of barely literate young folks who can read, if they must, but have difficulty composing an elegant sentence. They receive messages in bytes and slogans, think that way and express themselves in minimal squiggles. E-mail is already three technologies old. My grandchildren never look at theirs. Why waste all that time when the next best video game awaits?
For those of us of a certain age e-mail has become a primary means of contact, across the miles or across the street. I get into some fevered dialog; sometimes I'm the instigator, sometimes I am just defender of the faith or cause or team. It's hard to apply duct tape to the keyboard; particularly so having staked out some highly minority positions.
I hereby resolve to hold my acerbic tongue, to count to infinity before passing along "funnies" that might not be so construed and to avoid confrontational material that could result in the 21st century equivalent to a duel at dawn.
Over time some of these raw nerves might be revisited for the "blurtee". And perhaps more deliberation can be extended accordingly on the part of the blurter.