Fifteen years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to never, ever make another one again. Rather than motivating me to change, inspiring me to action, and embarrassing me into financial, physical, or emotional shape, my New Year’s resolutions seemed only to provide me with one more opportunity to feel really bad about myself when, two weeks later, I would inevitably break them. My resolution not to make another one is the only resolution I have ever kept. Until now, that is.

This change of heart occurred one recent morning when I sat at my desk committed to the daunting task of sifting through the never-ending black hole of e-mail accumulated in my in-box. Having neglected this tedious chore for more than a month, I knew I’d be at it longer than most of my relationships had lasted. Did I warn you that a rant was about to begin?

I have grown to resent e-mail and the time it takes from my already too-busy day. I know it’s supposed to improve my efficiency and make me appear “professional,” but it makes me cranky nonetheless. It’s not the people who send e-mail that I begrudge as much as the fact that it adds still one more thing to my perpetual to-do list, eats up a couple of non-billable hours every workday, and keeps me distant and removed from the very reason I’m in business-to connect with people.

Of course it’s not the actual e-mail I hate. Benefits aside, e-mail interrupts both the ritual and the natural flow of communication between people. It creates distance. It’s impersonal. It can easily be an excuse for not confronting a difficult situation. We say things in e-mails that we might never say face-to-face. We hide behind carefully crafted language hoping to convey our thoughts without ever having to confront the possible displeasure plastered across the face of our colleague.

No number of smiley faces will compensate for the absence of eye contact, body language, and chemistry that naturally occur when two people spend time in the same space. Yes, e-mail has become just another place for us to hide-an avoidance device that makes us virtually invisible.

But e-mail is by no means the only way we’ve retreated from personal interactions and the development of relationships. We’ve become Pavlovian in response to our cell phones, pagers, voice mail, and the like. We keep adding more personal technology to our lives in an effort to simplify them. But instead of simplifying our lives, we are becoming more removed from them.

An intolerable number of people in the United States feel disconnected from themselves and from others. People are becoming almost gerbil-like in their response to the complications of their lives, gnawing harder and faster at the things that already aren’t working rather than stopping and redesigning the whole thing. It would seem that all the systems we’ve put in place to manage our lives are essentially interfering with that very thing happening.

Research in the field of psychology has concluded that the primary reason people can allow themselves to commit crimes is that they don’t identify with their victims-they view themselves as totally unlike the “other” and, therefore, are able to violate them.