I remember when my Windows 95, 286 desktop clunker, with external modem that screeched that awful sound, was in my kitchen. With the thrill of dial-up and my Pegasus email client, I would send an email to one of the list-serv’s I belonged to, go make spagetti and a salad and return to see if anyone answered, from somewhere in the world.

Things chugged a teeny bit faster when I upgraded that machine to a 386 and then a 486 and then Eric (who was my geek friend in those days and is now my husband) basically got tired of ripping out its guts and talked me into a new PC. That was around 1997 then, and I’d gotten a Packard Bell that had its modem hidden somewhere, and a zip drive so I could take work back and forth between my job and home. If cable and DSL had been invented then, I didn’t know about it. I was still racing along at some slow baud rate, and having the time of my life!

By year 2000, when I started working for a big-shot Internet company, and was converted to Dell, high speed, IM’ing and Outlook for work, Eudora for home, I was addicted to email as my primary communication with all humans except for my kids. And that’s only because they were too young to type yet.

Working in IT in a male dominated world where a dead plant hanging from a cubicle was a thing of beauty, I learned that nobody dared get up out of a chair to talk to their neighbor if they needed to. With IM and email, why walk? Why stand up at all? Whenever the occasional female who wore a dress strode down an aisle (not me. I stopped wearing dresses in 1983), there would be this abrubt klackity klack as their nimble fingers IM’d god knows what about the poor woman to one another.

I learned that email is not the best way to deliver information or inform “higher ups” of bad news, such as a software defect, unless you are formal, polite, apologetic, are willing to skip lunch for a month to work overtime to make them look better and make absolutely no spelling errors.

I learned, the hard way, never to email anything that you don’t expect the whole world to see. Because they will. Or your boss will.

Now that I work from a home office, I go through one wireless keyboard a year on my desktop and have many ergonomic products and wrist rests, because I learned the hard way what happens when I don’t protect my wrists.

I do a tremendous amount of correspondence from email, PM’s, blogs and forum posts. I’m sure a lot of you do too.

Have you ever noticed that you no longer know how to talk to people?

We noticed (we being husband, kids and me, when I wasn’t in denial), that my working alone from home was changing me. I began to withdraw. I used to get cabin fever, and then flipped to the opposite, where they couldn’t get me to leave the house. (So 2 summers ago Eric bought a used motorhome as incentive to go camping!)

I lost confidence in myself. I started to stutter if out in public. All kinds of odd things were happening, and we couldn’t blame it on my thyroid (which no longer functions), and makes people act wierd.

I had unlearned social skills because I wasn’t using them anymore!

Getting a cell phone has helped. I got involved in local community things related to my kids’ and their stuff. I got rid of IM. I got a dog because the 3 cats aren’t talkative and he’s an insane Golden Retriever with too many squeaky toys.

And yet it seems like now that I’m trying to move away from an email-heavy lifestyle, my ex-husband has discovered it, after years of avoiding computers. He used to call me about the kids. Now, I get emails. Some coaches for sports don’t communicate with parents by phone at all. It’s only by email. Borders doesn’t send me coupons in the mail. They email them to me. Amazon emails me all the time. In fact, everytime I purchase something, I’m bound to get an email from that company later.

All of this brings me to something my husband emailed me from work today. It’s an article called *!#@ The E-Mail. Can We Talk?

Face-to-face meetings can trump technology. Some companies call for “no e-mail Fridays”

” Scott A. Dockter knew things were bad when he found himself e-mailing his assistant seated a few feet away.”

Is this you, too?

Have you changed, since computers and email became a way of life?

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Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

My Online Course: Web Site Usability 101

Member:

American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)

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