St. Jerome's does e-mail fast

By 
  • March 13, 2009
{mosimage}On the campus of the university that helps fuel the world's instant communication addiction - e-mail all the time and everywhere courtesy of Blackberry phones - it might be something like heresy. But for St. Jerome's University staffer Jim Robson, giving up internal e-mails for a day is actually a spiritual exercise.

St. Jerome's had its first No E-mail Day Feb. 11 and held another March 11. The idea is that by fasting from internal e-mails, workers will be encouraged to actually talk to one another, said Robson.

"In a lot of cases they (staff) receive an e-mail from somebody 20 feet away," said Robson.

The college health and safety officer and chair of the staff assembly doesn't think the e-mail-free days betray Waterloo-based Research in Motion , the maker of Blackberry smartphones and a generous donor to the University of Waterloo.

"I don't know if he (RIM chairman Jim Basillie) is worried about his stock too much,"; Robson said.

The e-mail fast is limited to internal e-mails, and the organizers are very aware that people outside the university expect prompt reply to their e-mails.

"Part of the original discussions about it were that St. Jerome’s is just going to collapse if we can’t e-mail people," said Robson.

For all the convenience and efficiency of e-mail, there is a dark side.

"People in general, our society, has become disconnected because of electronic communication,” he said.

Substituting face-to-face communication for internal e-mails has become a regular habit since the first No E-mail Day in February, Robson said. Fighting against the depersonalization built into a high-tech lifestyle is part of the Catholic character of St. Jerome's, he said.

"I don't know if I can connect it with Lent so much, but certainly it is a spiritual exercise."

Organizers hope No E-mail Day will become a regular, monthly feature of life on campus.

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