Win the Presidency, Lose Your E-Mail?
Among many other pressing decisions -- hiring Cabinet members, choosing a school for his daughters, picking out a puppy -- President-elect Barack Obama will have to choose whether to give up e-mail. For at least the next four years.
He wouldn't be the first to do so. The argument here is that e-mail, unlike phone calls and face-to-face contact, produces evidence that falls under public records laws, and so Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also gave up their e-mail accounts. But for Obama, this would apparently involve a major sacrifice and a dramatic departure from his routine (the NYT had an interesting look at his e-mail and BlackBerry habits in yesterday's edition).
There are good arguments to be had over whether this is such a great idea on legal and policy grounds. For example, why should a voice over Internet Protocol call be exempt from record-keeping requirements when a different stream of digital packets, an e-mail message, is not? Do we actually want our elected representatives to choose their communications systems by how much evidence they might leave of any criminal actions? Would a bit of radical transparency be such a bad thing in government?
What I'm more interested in at the moment, however, is what it would be like for any regular user of e-mail to abandon it entirely for four years. I suspect that, at first, getting this constant distraction out of my life would come as a vast relief -- the same way I enjoy unplugging when I'm on vacation. But after the first couple of weeks, it would drive me nuts. Maybe this is just my own weird tastes at work, but real-time chatter -- phone calls, instant messaging, Webcam video chats -- isn't enough. I need a form of communication that gives me a chance to think first.
How about you? How long could you go without e-mail? What would you do to compensate for its absence?
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