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Keeping up with e-mail can be tough

I get a lot of e-mail.

Hundreds of messages a day roll in during the average work day, and if I don't keep up with responding and deleting, I can become buried in e-mail.

So when I get home, the last thing I feel like doing is sitting down at my computer and e-mailing family and friends. That's my excuse for my spotty track record on keeping up with my e-correspondence.

In the days of MySpace and Facebook, you'd think it would be easier than ever to keep tabs on what people are up to on a day-to-day basis.

But after I moved eight hours away from most of my family and friends, I was amazed at how quickly I fell out of contact with many of the people I was close with. Sure, dropping a quick e-mail is easier than picking up the phone. So what does it say about me when I can't even be bothered to e-mail?

After I left for college, my grandpa started using the new (at the time) technology of e-mail to keep in touch with me. He would always write his e-mails in all capital letters, and they usually read more like a telegram than a letter.

GRANDDAUGHTER:

YOU MUST BE STAYING VERY BUSY AT SCHOOL, WE HAVE NOT HEARD FROM YOU.

YOUR GRANDMOTHER AND I ARE DOING WELL.

WRITE BACK WHEN YOU GET A FREE MINUTE.

I appreciated his e-mails. I liked knowing he was thinking of me even when I was far away. But I rarely found those free minutes. When I wasn't in class, I was probably too busy having theological discussions over pizza to do something as dull as writing an e-mail to my grandparents.

Much later, my grandma shared that every time he got a new message alert, he would say, "Oh, maybe that's an e-mail from Shelley!"

It breaks my heart to think he no doubt found spam messages offering him a loan with no strings attached, or some sort of sexual enhancement product.

He died during my junior year of college. I would give anything to be able to e-mail him an update on my life today.

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson. But I've discovered I'm falling into the same pattern with other loved ones. An aunt of mine has been battling a recurrence of breast cancer for more than a year now.

I've been trying to keep my promise to myself to stay in touch during this time when she needs all the support she can get, but I know I can do better.

When I receive an e-mail from her, instead of replying back that moment, I usually wait until I have the time to type out a thoughtful response. The message invariably gets buried, and by the time I actually do reply, I'm sure she thinks I've forgotten all about her.

Last time I saw my aunt, she said something that should shame all of us who can't find the time to stay in touch.

"I know you're busy," she said. "Just write a few lines. That's all I want."

E-mail Lifestyle Editor Shelley Mann at shelley.mann@gwinnettdailypost.com.