[Air-l] e-mail destroying friendships?

Charles Ess cmess at lib.drury.edu
Sun Apr 20 20:26:17 PDT 2003

As usual,  Nancy's critical acumen is helpfully forcing me to sharpen my
admittedly vague and diffuse query.
Question: in ways analogous to how the decontextualized venues of CMC  seem
to allow for more aggressive forms of communication - and forms of
communication that are themselves decontextualized (e.g., the sharp reply
sent not simply to a friend who might know the author well - but also to a
range of strangers who have no experience with the author and hence have
less ability to interpret his/her meaning, tone, etc.) -
is it possible that such e-mail venues as I described might foster less
judicious rhetoric (e.g., language use, etc., that one would never use
face-to-face)  that is thus more likely to be destructive of relationships?

I really don't know!  My query was sparked by discussion today with friends,
in which two different examples of such destruction - severing of e-mail
connections as well as reduction of f-2-f engagements with one another -
were noted.  Again, two examples hardly a generalization make - but at least
help occasion a query?

Still curiously,

Charles Ess
Distinguished Research Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies
Drury University
900 N. Benton Ave.                          Voice: 417-873-7230
Springfield, MO  65802  USA            FAX: 417-873-7435
Home page:  http://www.drury.edu/ess/ess.html
Co-chair, CATaC: http://www.it.murdoch.edu.au/catac/

Exemplary persons seek harmony, not sameness. -- Analects 13.23

> From: Nancy Baym <nbaym at ku.edu>
> Reply-To: air-l at aoir.org
> Date: Sun, 20 Apr 2003 20:40:35 -0500
> To: <air-l at aoir.org>
> Subject: Re: [Air-l] e-mail destroying friendships?
> Charles  ponders whether email is destroying friendships...
> Sounds to me like politics are destroying friendships. Is there
> anything radically different in the scenario Charles poses than a
> person who raises politics at a party, leading to disagreement,
> perhaps vehement, and no more party invitations for some of the
> arguers? Face-to-face communication is clearly the biggest threat to
> relational survival there is -- almost every relationship that ever
> gets started ultimately falls apart via f2f communication. But we
> don't even think to blame face-to-face interaction for their
> downfall. As an interpersonal communication teacher, I have yet to be
> convinced there is anything profoundly different about email's role
> in relationships. Communication builds friendships. Communication
> destroys friendships. Email is a communication medium. Why wouldn't
> email destroy friendships as well as help build them?
> Nancy
> -- 
> Nancy Baym http://www.ku.edu/home/nbaym
> Communication Studies, University of Kansas
> 102 Bailey Hall, 1440 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045, USA
> Association of Internet Researchers: http://aoir.org
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