Why I Suck at Email and Social Media

As academics, we get a lot of emails. Sometimes, my response time can vary from a few seconds to a few months. I’m not a Luddite, but if I want to prioritize the most important work, such as writing articles, books, lectures, and supervising students, then email has to come last. To free myself from the tyranny of email, I try to follow a few rules—often, I fail.

I try not to read or reply in the morning, and I attempt to avoid checking emails on weekends. I schedule emails to be sent the next morning and access them only on my computer.

As I get older, I try to avoid social media.

No email or social media on mobile devices.

So, what do I do when I’m not writing or checking email? Sometimes, although not often enough, I play with my children. Other times, I work in the garden, run errands, repair a crumbling farmhouse, ski, or find other ways to avoid writing. Not enough, but still significant, is the time I spend reading, drafting, transcribing, revising, editing, or engaging in other writing-related activities.

Often, I try to walk.

Writing a book is a time-consuming endeavour. It requires years of fieldwork, thousands of pages of notes, and a considerable amount of cutting, polishing, revising, and editing. In my written work, I come across as thoughtful, articulate, and well-written. However, I am not as articulate over email or social media.

The same goes for social media.

If I can write a good sentence for every unwritten post and unliked tweet, I am happy. I do post sometimes, but my posts are mostly about the process rather than my work or current affairs. I have no hot takes or quick analyses.

I am a slow writer.

I spend a lot of time on the computer, but I struggle with email and social media. I want to focus on writing. I often fail.

So, by all means, get in touch. I may reply, and if I do, it’ll be late in the day.

Updated 29 April 2023.