email is out of control: part 126 Mar 2019
so here’s the thing: it’s quite obvious to me that email as a communication system is getting out of hand.
back in the early days of email, or at least the early days as i remember them with hotmail and yahoo and campus mail, the only people who had your email address were… well… actual people. so the inbox was an electronic place where people could asynchronously get information to you and vice versa. i don’t know what it was like for the work world, but it was pretty magical as a kid.
as the internet sped up, more groups and organizations adopted email as a collective communication tool. do you remember the days before email threads? i barely do, but i do.
now, all sorts of entities have email addresses and there are people who organizations pay to design and send email (i’m one of them in part of my consulting work).
what that last addition broke most firmly, though it has been trending in this direction all along, is the person-to-person expectation of being in my inbox. nowadays, the majority of email i get is not from people, but from organizations (newsletters, promotional ads, fundraising asks, alerts, flight notifications, and on and on).
and even the personal communication in email has shifted for me. because i’ve been working for close to ten years now, i have lots of work relationships with people, some pleasant and some less pleasant. there are now some people or organizations who email me that, when i see their name in my inbox, i have an anxiety response. there are also people who’s emails i know will be amazing and so long-winded that i avoid reading the message(s) until the last possible moment.
those reactions and more create this really nasty cocktail that is my inbox. what does that produce in me? a bunch of patterns. for example:
- feeling overwhelmed by the number of emails i have
- opening emails, reading them, and not responding to them
- avoiding my inbox for days at a time
- avoiding certain emails because they really should be in person conversations
- responding to messages in ways i wish i hadn’t
and some of the things i’ve seen in other people:
- incessantly checking their email
- interrupting in-person conversation to open an “urgent” or “important” email
- unreal amounts of stress around cleaning out their inbox
there’s so much more but i’m going to stop here for now…
words / writing / post-processing
365w / 12min / 5min