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More and more, we are living life at warp speed, as our communications speed up with information technology advances. Is this a good thing? This column explores some of the pros and cons. FASTER, FASTER Once upon a time, frankly not that long ago, we could send a letter to someone by way of the postal service (now referred to as “snail mail”), and then we could take a breath and not expect a response for at least a few days, and in the interim we could move on to other tasks. Then, overnight delivery services and faxing came into vogue. Many of us can remember, even more recently, that it would be a relatively major deal when a secretary would say “you have received a fax” or “a FedEx has arrived for you.” Obviously, something important and urgent had come our way. Now, of course, even overnight delivery services and faxes are deemed too slow, and certainly are not reserved for truly rush matters. Instead, most of us are connected at the speed of electricity, and within seconds we can communicate by e-mail and attach and send even routine documents to our e-mail communications. THE PROS Like Tom Cruise’s character in the movie “Top Gun,” we obviously “feel the need for speed,” and plainly there are some advantages to speed in our communications. We can be more productive and efficient in our work if downtime is eliminated. Transactions can move at a faster pace and can be accomplished more quickly. Employer costs can be lessened, as fewer personnel and resources are necessary to carry out and follow through on communications. Meetings, that can be time consuming and not terribly productive, do not need to take place as often, as communications to a group can be easily facilitated through e-mail. When a record of communications is important to document, e-mail leaves a retrievable trail that is not the case with verbal communications. For employers, it is easier to monitor, where appropriate, electronic communications of employees, as opposed to verbal communications. There is less need for the cost and inconvenience of travel, as so much can be accomplished by way of rapid electronic communications. We are not as tied to our desks as we used to be. With the advent of handheld, wireless, electronic communication devices, we are able to work from practically anywhere. Thus, a parent can make it to his or her child’s mid-afternoon sports practice and still stay on top of what is happening at work. These are just some examples of the advantages of electronic communications. THE CONS Unfortunately, there are a number of negative consequences flowing from our growing dependence on rapid fire, electronic communications. We need to breathe. Many of us feel that we are constantly “on,” as we can be reached any time of day or night through wireless e-mail, pagers and cell phones. Even with greater productivity caused by advances in information technology, we are not using this to our advantage to break out sufficient periods of leisure time. We need to deal with one and other, at least some of the time, on a human level. Despite the ease and value of electronic communications, once in a while we need to shake someone’s hand and see that person’s face to truly understand his or her point of view and to forge a common understanding. Electronic communications, such as e-mail, can “live forever.” People often use e-mail just as they would chit-chat in casual conversation. Yet, unlike the spoken word, e-mail can be retrieved and used in an adverse way. Thus, we need to be careful and not as free in the drafting of our e-mails, as we would when talking to someone. The more that communications take place by e-mail, the less privacy we have in our communications — as employers, for example, under appropriate circumstances, retrieve and review the stored e-mails of employees. Because many people are still somewhat unrestrained in what they say electronically, either in e-mails or by way of postings on electronic bulletin boards and the like, it is very easy on a mass basis to inadvertently (or intentionally) defame someone else, improperly disseminate trade secrets or intellectual property, or to cause the revelation of personally identifiable details of others. Our electronic communications also become difficult to deal with when we must sift through the ever-growing bombardment of unwanted communications such as spam. And the more that we become dependent on technology for communications, when that technology is “down,” due to a crash, a virus, a worm or other such problem, deadlines that we expected to meet go out the window. These, of course, are just some of the negatives of the quickening pace of electronic communications. NO TURNING BACK THE CLOCK Of course, we are where we are, and it is impossible to believe that we are going to return to the horse and buggy days of snail mail. So, keep your seat belts fastened as communications, if anything, will only speed up. Still, there are certain things that can be done to make our ride in the electronic fast lane better. Remember to turn off your electronic communications devices some of the time so that you can enjoy the world around you. Continue to have face-to-face personal interactions some of the time. And be careful when communicating electronically — if you say what you would be comfortable having published in the newspaper, you likely will not get into any trouble. Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris ( www.duanemorris.com), where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology disputes. Mr. Sinrod’s Web site is www.sinrodlaw.com, and he can be reached at [email protected]. To receive a weekly e-mail link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please send an e-mail with the word Subscribe in the subject line to [email protected]

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