Psycho Babble

Out of Office (A Webcomic)

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The vacation message reimagined

By Jessica Love

May 15, 2014


 

As someone whose job includes going through hundreds of out-of-office emails every month, I consider myself an inadvertent scholar of the medium. And what a strange medium it is: borne not from a need to communicate, but from a more meta-need to set the terms of communication. What shocks me, though, is just how little personality inserts itself into most out-of-office messages. Why is this? On Facebook and answering machines—even in the professional realms of LinkedIn and cover letters—we find ways of expressing ourselves, of sharing (and over-sharing), promoting and justifying. But the out-of-office message remains stubbornly formulaic, depersonalized. Have you encountered any interesting exceptions lately?

Jessica Love recently received a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and is currently a science writer and editor at Northwestern University.

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