I don’t know about you, but I’m overwhelmed by e-mail.
Yes, I know. The Wall Street Journal has declared that
e-mail’s reign is over. It’s supposedly being replaced by technologies such as
instant messaging, social networking and Twitter.
And it’s not just the Journal that’s proclaiming the end of
e-mail as we know it. Thanks to the increase in time we spend on these newer
communications services, the Radicati Group, a technology research firm, tells
us that we’re spending much less time with e-mail.
But I don’t buy it. My in-boxes are as full as they’ve ever
I’m not the only one who’s skeptical. Research group IDC
recently scoffed at the notion that e-mail’s day is past, comparing the
Journal’s headline to the infamous one in the Chicago Tribune erroneously
announcing, “Dewey defeats Truman.”
The number of e-mail messages sent worldwide continues to
climb steadily, IDC noted. The average business user now sends or receives 114
e-mail messages a day.
That’s just the average. Some of us get a lot more.
At work I typically send and receive 200 to 250 messages a
day. And I’m not talking about spam. Fortunately, our spam filters here work
pretty well, so nearly all of the messages I receive are legitimate. They run
from news releases to reader requests to meeting schedulings to personal notes
I also get e-mails from social networks. As much as those
networks may represent new forms of communication, they often rely on good
old-fashioned e-mail to alert you when you’ve got new friends or messages on
Add all these up, and I’m spending two hours a day — at
least — combing through e-mail. And if I don’t, I’m punished by adding to the
I often tune out e-mail while writing a story or column —
only to find that 20 to 40 new messages have piled up while I was ignoring my
inbox. I almost dread leaving the office or going on vacation because of the
daunting task I’ll face when I return: hundreds of e-mail messages to handle.
And that’s just work. I’ve nearly abandoned my Yahoo mail account
because I couldn’t keep up with all the marketing pitches and mailing list
messages. I rarely check my Gmail account for the same reason. I do check an
e-mail account linked to my personal Web address, but still the unanswered
e-mails pile up.
The growing overload has changed my attitude toward e-mail.
I still acknowledge how useful it can be. I still love how easy it has made
sending a note to a writer I follow or to my family and friends. And many of my
story and column ideas originated or were facilitated through e-mail.
But it has made communication almost too easy. People who
would never have thought about calling or writing me longhand send me e-mail
And the giant time drain of responding steals time away from
my reporting and writing — not to mention my family life.
My situation is probably worse than most. My e-mail address
is appended to every article I write, so I probably get a lot more unsolicited
e-mail than most folks. But I’ve got to believe that other folks are feeling
the same way I do.
Yes, there are steps that can be taken to better manage
e-mail. You can unsubscribe to marketing mailing lists — at least those from
legitimate marketers — through a link they are required to include on their
messages. With mailing lists for discussion groups and some online services,
you can choose to receive a digest of a day’s worth of messages, rather than
getting an e-mail for each individual message sent to the list. And you can
also use the rules feature within Outlook and other e-mail programs to filter
messages as they come in, sending them to particular folders, which can allow
you to prioritize particular types of messages.
But these steps don’t solve the problem. The only solution
would be for all of us to stop using e-mail so much.
And, the Journal’s assessment aside, that’s just not going
Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.