DON'T email me. That address on the bottom of this column? That is the pathetic, confused death knell of the once-proud newspaper industry, and I want nothing to do with it.

Sending an email to that address is about as useful as sending your study group report about Iraq to the US President.

Here's what my internet-fearing editors have failed to understand: I don't want to talk to you; I want to talk at you.

A column is not my attempt to engage in a conversation with you. I have more than enough people to converse with. And I don't listen to them either. That sound on the phone, Mum, is me typing.

Some newspapers even list the phone numbers of their reporters at the end of their articles. That's a smart use of their employees' time. Why not just save a step and have them set up a folding table at a senior citizen centre with a sign asking for complaints?

Where does this end? Does Philip Roth have to put his email at the end of his book? Does Tom Hanks have to hold up a sign with his email at the end of his movie? Should your hotel housekeeper leave her email on your sheets? Are you starting to see how creepy this is?

Not everything should be interactive. A piece of work that stands on its own, without explanation or defence, takes on its own power. If Martin Luther put his 95 theses on the wall and then all the townsfolk sent him their comments, and he had to write back to all of them and clarify what he meant, some of the theses would have become all watered down and there never would have been a Diet of Worms. And then, for the rest of history, school students learning about the Reformation would have nothing to make fun of. You can see how dangerous this all is.

I understand that you have opinions you want to share. That's great. I just don't have any interest in them.

First of all, I did a tiny bit of research for my column, so I'm already familiar with your brilliant argument. Second, I've already written my column, so I can't even steal your ideas and get paid for them.

There is no practical reason to send your rants to me. If you want to counter my opinion publicly, write a letter to the editor. If you want me fired, write a letter to the publisher. If you want a note back, write a letter in lipstick on the bathroom mirror.

Or you could just write mean things about my column on some blog. Don't worry, I'll see them. I have a "Joel Stein" RSS feed that goes straight into my arteries.

But don't make me feel like you expect a return email. Because this takes my assistant four to five hours every week. I know this because my assistant is me.

Huge portions of my emails come from people who haven't even read my article. They're just assuming, based on a headline or an excerpt on a blog, that I'm unpatriotic or irreligious or lecherous.

Sure, they happen to be right, but it would have been nice if they had clicked on my column and moved me up on that "most-read articles" list.

A lot of email screeds argue that, in return for the privilege of broadcasting my opinion, I have the responsibility to listen to you. I don't.

I'm not an elected servant. I'm an arrogant, solipsistic, attention-needy freak who pretends to have an opinion about everything. I don't have time to listen to you. I barely have time to listen to me.

Part of the problem is that no etiquette has yet been established for the hyper-interactive world. And I, born before MySpace and email, don't feel comfortable getting a letter and not answering it. And then, if I do, suddenly, we're penpals, with all those penpal responsibilities.

And I don't want a penpal who already has strong opinions about me. What fun is that?

So I'm going to establish a new etiquette. I'm asking my editors to build a page on where, instead of emailing me, you can write about how arrogant I am.

And maybe on this site, one brave person will write about how I'm right to stand up against this world of false, easy community, where columnists pretend they think their essays are no more valuable than yours, and friendship is a stranger who thanks you for the MySpace ad.

And I hope that this brave someone else is smart enough to think of a username and IP address that doesn't reveal that it's obviously me.