I freely admit that I'm a recovering social phobic. I used to have a lot of trouble talking to people I didn't know, and over time, I recognized my problem, and I've worked very hard to correct it. And yet, if I can avoid the face-to-face and do something by email, I will.
For me, email is a virtual paper trail, everything is in writing, and it can be tracked. A phone call or meeting is a little more sketchy; you need to pick up on all the social cues (tone of voice, facial expression) and react appropriately. I think everyone might have some form of social interaction phobia; otherwise there wouldn't be so many columns and book devoted to de-mystifying the dance of the job interview.
And yet, as Dan Goleman writes,
In contrast to a phone call or talking in person, e-mail can be emotionally impoverished when it comes to nonverbal messages that add nuance and valence to our words. The typed words are denuded of the rich emotional context we convey in person or over the phone.So emails, according to Goleman, can be easily misconstrued. He cites the example of a back and forth exchange between himself and a publishing denizen, in which she says they need to stop emailing, because she continues to sound "strident" and he comes across as "exasperated." The whole issue is resolved by a chummy phone call.
I really can't relate to the piece at all, because really, I do my best work by email. It's a perfect tool, in my opinion. And rarely have I found myself dissecting emails to discover a hidden meaning. I'm not paranoid. I'd be interested to hear from others on whether you find email to be impersonal or not.