A recent study in the UK found that office workers check their e-mail a minimum of 30 times every hour. With e-mail capability on cell phones, plenty of people check their mail around the clock, while they’re on vacation, while they’re on dates, while they’re attending weddings and funerals and parties and other events where they should be interacting with people who are
present in the flesh.
Why? Are they all expecting earth-shaking news via e-mail? No, they’re just getting a dopamine fix every couple of minutes.
I’ve been hearing about e-mail addiction for a decade and never gave it much thought. I believed it was just another way that people, including myself, have found to goof off when we ought to be working. Then I read (in Esquire, of all places) that every time addicts check their e-mail their brains release a small dose of the “pleasure chemical” dopamine, which plays a key role in addictive behavior. The more you do it, the more you want that squirt of dopamine.
We have become, in short, lab rats mindlessly seeking rewards for repetitive behavior.
We know that 99.99% of e-mails will contain nothing of great importance. Yet we withdraw from the world around us to click click click on Get Mail or to slavishly obey the intrusive notice that mail is waiting. We act as if every message must be read and answered without delay.
How bad is your habit? Are you willing to answer these questions honestly?
1. How many times a day do you check your e-mail?
2. How many times have you checked for mail in the last hour?
3. Do you retrieve and answer business e-mail at night and on weekends?
4. Do you keep up with e-mail on vacation?
5. What’s the longest time you’ve gone without an e-mail fix?
6. Do you check e-mail while at social events?
7. Do you tend to reply to e-mail immediately?
8. Do you feel a little uneasy when you enter a no-cellphones zone such as a hospital or theater?
9. Have you tried to control your e-mail habit? What worked? What didn’t?
10. Do you think you could live without e-mail? Would you want to?