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Magazines > Information Today > June 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 6 — June 2004

Internet Waves 
The Great American E-Mail Quiz
By Shirley Duglin Kennedy

Through my current job, I've reached a significant personal milestone: For the first time in my professional career, I have a dot-mil e-mail address. I've been a dot-com, a dot-net, a dot-us, a dot-org, and a dot-edu. Now I'm a dot-mil. If anyone reading this column has managed such a weird accomplishment, please drop me a note and tell me about it.

Lately, I get the sense that e-mail has lost a lot of its cachet. The novelty is long gone, of course. Now, even your grandmother is likely to have more than one e-mail address, and one of your children may well be running his or her own mail server. E-mail newsletters have given way to RSS feeds out there on the bleeding edge of the information profession. Spam has done much to poison this particular well. And for so many of us, e-mail is, well, work. Work that in many cases follows us home and even on vacation.

I began using e-mail regularly at the tail end of the 1980s, and it's hard to remember what life was like without it. Whereas many people are telephone-oriented and would sooner give up their firstborn child than part with their cell phones, I remain, for better or for worse, an e-mail person. Even in spite of spam. And I still prefer e-mail to RSS. (OK. There you have it. I'm officially declaring myself unhip, right here in print.)

Are you an e-mail person? Give yourself three points for every one of the following statements that's true for you. Then add up your score, along with any bonus points, and check the wrap-up at the bottom to assess your e-mail persona.

1) I have separate e-mail addresses for work and personal use. (Give yourself a three-point bonus if you have more than two e-mail addresses. Give yourself a five-point bonus if you have more than five. Subtract five points if you routinely use your work e-mail for personal stuff.)

2) I have sent e-mail to someone who is living in the same domicile and is on a computer in another room. (Give yourself a five-point bonus if this is usually how you let your significant other or kids know that dinner is ready.)

3) I regularly send e-mail to colleagues who are located within shouting distance of me.

4) I have used e-mail to avoid my boss or pretend to be somewhere other than where I was supposed to be.

5) I have used e-mail to avoid a confrontation with a co-worker or family member. (Give yourself a five-point bonus if this actually worked.)

6) I have sent e-mail to a public official. (Give yourself a three-point bonus if you managed to get a personal reply rather than some boilerplate drivel from an auto-responder.)

7) I have sent lurid e-mail to a significant other. (Give yourself a three-point bonus if you regularly do this. Give yourself a five-point bonus if you've ever had an e-mail affair.)

8) I have used e-mail to avoid a difficult phone or face-to-face conversation. (Give yourself a five-point bonus if you've ever quit a job or ended a relationship via e-mail.)

9) I have sent at least one e-mail in haste that I later regretted. (Subtract five points if you do this on a regular basis. And ferheavenssake, consider letting the e-mail simmer in your drafts folder overnight and reread it the next day instead of being so quick to hit "send.")

10) I check my e-mail at least once a day while on vacation.

11) I have used "I never got your e-mail" as an excuse for missing a deadline or meeting or for otherwise dropping the ball. (Give yourself three extra points if this was actually true.)

12) I have sent an e-mail from my work address to my personal address as a reminder to do something after I get home that night. (Give yourself three extra points if you've also done the reverse.)

13) I have at least three long-term e-mail buddies whom I have never actually met in person.

14) I feel closer to one or more e-mail buddies than I do to certain friends, family members, or colleagues.

15) I actually met one of my long-term e-mail buddies and found this individual to be downright loathsome in the flesh.

16) I fell in love with one of my long-term e-mail buddies. (Give yourself a five-point bonus if you married this person.)

17) I have sent amusing/chatty e-mails back and forth to a colleague who was sitting in the same boring meeting.

18) I have embarrassed myself by accidentally "replying to all" on an Internet discussion list.

19) I subscribe to too many Internet discussion lists. (Give yourself a three-point bonus if your in box currently contains more than 50 unread e-mails, most from mailing lists.)

20) I'm a nervous wreck if something happens to my Internet connection and I'm temporarily cut off from my e-mail.

21) I have abandoned one or more e-mail accounts due to the volume of incoming spam. (Give yourself five extra points if you've managed to come up with a reasonable method of dealing with spam. And please share.)

22) I have at least one e-mail account that I haven't checked within the last month.

23) I have sent/received e-mail via a wireless hand-held device (PDA, cell phone, etc.).

24) I prefer good-old text-format e-mail to HTML mail.

25) I'm planning to e-mail this column to at least three other colleagues so they can also take this test.

If you scored ...

75 Points or More—E-mail is your life. Accept it and deal with it accordingly.

50 to 75 Points—E-mail is a significant part of your life. You know you wouldn't survive very long without it.

25 to 50 Points—E-mail is just a communications tool. Wow! This
actually sounds normal.

Below 25 points—You are either a telephone person or an RSS person. Please don't do either behind the wheel of your car.

Shirl Kennedy is the reference librarian at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. Her e-mail address is
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