Breathe In, Email Out

Modern technology has contributed to lots of new physical conditions — carpal tunnel syndrome being one example.  Could the simple process of writing an email actually cause a form of apnea similar to sleep apnea?

IMG_5427The theory is that, when people write emails, they stop breathing properly.  They hold their breath when writing a compelling sentence, or start breathing too shallowly.  Those who experience the symptoms can end up sweating heavily and feeling light-headed.

This is one of those news stories that I greet with a healthy dose of skepticism.  I’ve been writing and reading emails for decades now, and I don’t remember ever feeling light-headed.  Bored, yes.  Amazed at the inanity of some human communications, yes.  Astonished at the pathetic quality of purported fraudulent schemes that seem unlikely to fool a kindergartner, yes.

The only times I’ve ever held my breath at the computer keyboard occurred when I read an email so bizarre or ill-advised that I feared for the sanity or likely career trajectory of the sender.  It makes me wonder:  how many of the claimed “email apnea” cases are really just a reflection of an e-mailer worrying about sending a particularly risky email?  An especially ticklish message might cause you to leave puddles of sweat on the keys and forget to breathe.

Given the ludicrous amount of email Americans send and receive these days, wouldn’t we have heard about email apnea before now?  In fact, if it were any kind of significant concern, we’d be in the grips of an epidemic.  The fact that we aren’t seeing infomercials touting a combination keyboard and breathing mask tells you all you need to know.

Inadvertent IPod Wipeout

I am of the generation that views every electronic device with wary trepidation.  Raised during a time when computers crashed even more frequently than the healthcare.gov website, I firmly believe — despite the bland assurances of sons and IT nerds alike — that I can bring any system down with one false keystroke.

IMG_5424Saturday morning, it happened.  I had my iPod attached to the computer and was listening to music when I decided to remove the iPod.  It’s something I’ve done hundreds of times, but this time the outcome was different.  Suddenly a wavy line appeared on the screen, the mouse became unresponsive, and before I knew it the computer was telling me that did not recognize its old pal, my iPod.  When I removed the iPod, with sinking feeling, I found that all of my music and my carefully constructed playlists had been removed.  And, because I’ve been lazy about it, I don’t have any remotely current back-up on the computer itself.

So I went through the seven stages of reaction to technology disaster.  First, shock that my faithful iPod had deserted me, then denial that I could wreak such havoc with one inadvertent mouse click.  Next, I raged at the capricious electronic device gods for punishing me so grievously for one little mistake.  Then, false hope and bargaining.  Surely, the music still had to be on my iPod somewhere!   I’ll do a google search and find out how to retrieve it!  But google gave no answer, and when google gives no answer you are truly screwed.  My hope gone, I accepted responsibility for the disaster, then wrestled with the devastating realization that, although every other American under the age of 80 happily uses their iPod without incident, I am an idiot who can somehow evade all of the safety protections Apple has built into one of its signature products.

Those stages are behind me now, and I’ve moved, finally, to acceptance and hope.  I now welcome the chance to change things around, to shift the order of songs and maybe be a bit more selective in what goes on the iPod in the first place.  (The Telemann piece with the hunting horns probably will hit the cutting room floor this time.)  I’ll rebuild my iPod, with new and better playlists!  This time, I’ll back things up!  This time, I’ll do things the way Apple wants them done!

Oh, and I’ll be a bit more careful when removing my iPod from the computer.