Thursday, October 7, 2010

Email Addiction Revisited

JAN: This is how sick I am. These statistics about email comforted me. At least at first. They come from a 2010 AOL survey, which I discovered through PSYBLOG - which is my favorite blog.

1) .59 per cent of recipients say they check email from the bathroom.

Yes, their bathroom. Just for the record, I have NEVER checked email from my bathroom. I think it's probably only the hygiene thing holding me back.

The reason email is so addictive, according to Psyblog is "variable-interval reinforcement" which is a complicated way of saying --even though most email we receive runs from boring to downright irritating, we get enough sporadic "exciting" emails to make us keep checking. We're hoping for that high moment.

2) 47% claim to be hooked on it, 25% of people can't go without email for more than 3 days, and 60% check email on vacation.

Guilty as charged. Always on vacation. Even in France when I had to spend money at an Internet Cafe. And really, is there anyone with email who goes three days without checking it?

3) You check email even more than you THINK you check email. Participants in a study by Renaud et al. (2006) claimed to check their email, on average, once an hour. However when the researchers spied on them, it turned out they checked their email every five minutes.

4.) Email eats a quarter of the working day

In a 2004 diary study (Czerwinski et al) of people in various different occupations. researchers found that, on average, people spent 23% of their working day dealing with email.

Okay, now I'm not so comforted. Now I'm realizing how much time I waste.

5.) It takes 64 seconds to recover your train of thought after an email interruption.

So in other words, all the time I spend meditating and doing yoga to enhance creativity, is blown once I start checking my email.

My solution, of course, is to Write First. Because once I start checking email, I fall into all the bad habits mentioned above.

So come on everyone, confess. Do we have any bathroom email checkers here?? Any five minute interval checkers?? Or do you now feel so much better about your email addiction because everyone else is worse??


  1. Jan, my lips are sealed on the bathroom thing:). But the variable reinforcement makes sense. That idea came from psychological studies in which they had rats press levers for food. The rats who were rewarded on an irregular schedule proved to be the most steady pressers. We learned the same thing in dog training classes!

    the point is we should try to be conscious about our addiction:). I'm not writing first, but I am on a 1000-words a day, five days a week schedule right now. Believe me, that cuts down on email by necessity!!

  2. Yeah, I'm the every-five-minute type. (But never in the bathroom!) It interrupts my day job, but that's OK. Writing technical documentation can be tedious at times. It's when the habit spills over into my fiction-writing day or days that it's a problem. Write First is still a great plan.


  3. I'm a bit boggled by the bathroom logistics... But I have checked email from Ireland and Australia.

  4. I find the more I have to do, the more I get done, and the less I check my email. So the days when I feel like the pigeon pressing that lever endlessly are when I don't have a full plate. So making a to-do list first thing helps, and unplugging the Internet. And my Internet doesn't work in the bathroom (don't ask me how I know this.)

  5. Sheila,
    The bathroom logistics sort of boggle my mind, too. Do people bring their I-phones or Blackberries or laptops in with them??

    Edith, I'm so happy its still working for you. I admit to some slippage, but I'm writing an outline - and writing it for the third time, so its a bit tedious.

    Plus I've got a brand new computer from my husband and I can't figure out how to turn off the dinging message thing.


  6. I just went back and double checked the psyblog account of the study.

    it's 59 percent of responders, not .59 percent.

    So MORE THAN half the people who responded check email from their bathroom.

    But maybe these are just the Net-crazed pool of people who take the time to respond to AOL surveys. When the people who are NOT checking email from their bathroom are also too busy to respond to AOL surveys.


  7. No checking the email in the bathroom. I won't even read a magazine in the bathroom.

    I usually check my email in the morning. Then I turn off the computer and walk away.

    You ladies inspired me. I have been getting up earlier than I have to and I write. Nothing else. I write on notebook paper, so I don't even turn on the computer. I feel so productive!

  8. I've never checked from the bathroom. Hah. So there.

    I have checked from the car. (Not driving). And sitting on the stoop of my hairdresser's at 9am when he was late for my appt.

    My husband is concerned about my emial needs, which does say something. It's difficult for me to be in my study--lets say, it's difficult for me to WALK BY my study--without checking.

    HOwever. When it's a writing time, and I sit down at the computer, I WRITE FIRST. It is SUCH a relief.
    And then when I do check--after 540words--it seems silly. And I just want to get back to writing.

    This is a HUGE problem. And I know people who are MUCH WORSE than I am. (I can't check email from my phone, for instance. On purpose.)

  9. Melissa,

    I wonder if the notebook/longhand writing style is going to have a major resurgence -- all on account of email addiction!!

    Hank, your comment made me laugh....if someone you love thinks you have a problem, you have a problem???

    But we're all making progress!!! (I even figured out how to turn of the dingy message alert on my new computer!

  10. Okay, I have never checked e-mail from the bathroom, but I do have a confession. Once when Hubby and I were on vacation, I woke up very early and couldn’t go back to sleep so I took my AlphaSmart into the bathroom, placed a towel over the closed toilet, sat on the side of the tub and wrote. It made a cute little desk and I got totally wrapped up in my writing. Next thing I knew, Hubby knocks on the door and asks, “Are you okay in there?” I couldn’t tell you how long I was in there, but the sun had risen and it was dark when I entered to write.

    So I guess this makes me feel better about my e-mail addiction. How often do I check my e-mail? How long does a TV show run between commercials? I check during commercials. I’m not sure how often I used to check when writing but IM pop-ups drove me crazy? Still don’t know how to turn it off.

    I do WRITE FIRST. Most of the time. I still keep my Jungle Red Chart from the challenge. Why? It keeps me honest about my writing. Do I cheat sometimes? Yes, but when I see that I did on the chart, I vow to get back on track. It works. I’ve done more writing in the last two and half months than I have in the last year.

    So now that I’ve confessed my writing sins, I need to go write because today—I admit it—I checked my e-mail first. I have three short stories almost ready to go in the mail.

    I will not check e-mail, I will not check e-mail, I will not check e-mail.