Time as a Black Hole | Psychophysiological Effects of Email Unresponsiveness

Check out this fantastic slide deck by Louise Hviid from The New School for Social Research, New York. It’s on anxiety and unanswered email.

Email has become an important means of communication. And yet as a medium of interaction it is characterized by being asynchronous and lacking a sense of ‘real time’. An important feature of this asynchronous communication is that it allows for a ‘black hole’ effect, where the absence of response within an awaited period of time leads to experiences of anxiety and insecurity about the communication sent out (Suler, 1998).

The psychological stress resulting from a ‘black hole’ is possibly better understood as a perceived ostracization. It has been suggested that humans are hard-wired to react negatively to ostracism (Wesselmann, Bagg, & Williams, 2009). If this hardwiring is mirrored in online interactions, the psychological harm would be magnified due to the prevalence of daily email communication. While it is perhaps easier to ignore an email in the inbox than a person physically in front of us, the act of ignoring is likely equally detrimental to our health.

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