I started thinking about the concept of personhood several days ago as I was sorting through emails. If I don’t do this frequently, they get completely out of hand. I have a zillion folders, which looks like a mess but works really well to keep me organized – most of the time. Emails still requiring response remain in my inbox so they can continue to draw my attention until I answer them. Emails regarding matters that are still pending remain there, too. And that’s when it hit me.

My folder of pending emails was huge! For many of them, I’d emailed twice or more times requesting response, all for naught. As I went through them, one by one, I became more and more annoyed. It was like I didn’t matter. It was like…I wasn’t even a person.

Now, I know most people don’t neglect to answer emails – or phone messages, for that matter – out of avarice. They’re not trying to make my life miserable. They’re just…busy. And that’s exactly my point. We get so busy, so bogged down with the pressures of getting things done and are so bombarded with communications of all kinds that we tend to forget there’s a living, breathing, being at the other end of that message. Without that face-to-face contact, it’s so easy to simply put it off. Or ignore it completely.

I’m not pointing fingers. I’ve done it myself in the past and I occasionally (but unintentionally) do it now. I’m less worried about the individual instances than I am about the overall trend. It seems this is the direction we’re headed as a human race, and it’s given me a shiver down my back. We laugh at the commercial in which the young executive is sitting next to his boss on a plane and the boss insists on communicating “the normal way” – via email. So, the lad sends his boss and email and the boss immediately deletes it with a derogatory comment about the young exec. Funny at first. Sad when you let it sink in.

Categories: Blog


David Zampino · September 24, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Believe me, I can sympathize! It's tough when the e-mails you really need to respond to (and even WANT to respond to) are buried in loads of "stuff" — not necessarily spam, but "stuff".

Catholic author, columnist, and speaker. · September 24, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Exactly! And that's part of what's got me thinking about this topic. Messages sent by real people turn into "stuff".

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