Despite its bad rap, part I
In The 1990s, Everyone Loved Email!
Email first came into (very limited) use in the early 1970s. The next two decades were a time before mobile phones or widespread use of telephone message machines, so it often was difficult to reach people. To circumvent those obstacles, personal computers became wildly popular in the 1990s–mainly because they allowed folks to experience the miracle of sending and receiving email.
As Internet access exploded, email became a cultural sensation. Those without an email address risked losing professional and personal credibility.
From Pleasure To Burden
Today, with so many competing messaging platforms available, it would seem that email should already be a thing of the past. –Not so. Yearly email volume is 75 trillion and rising, with over 600 million using it internationally. Since 2000, Internet use has increased more than 1000%—with online global population now reaching 3 billion people.
If email is still so widely used, why do so many people hate it?
- Email has gained a deserved reputation as a time and productivity killer, in part because most people check their email way too often (an average of 77 times a day).
- Every time we get an email, it takes over a minute to recover focus and move on with work.
- The sheer volume is overwhelming. People often use phrases like digital overload,’ ‘work-life imbalance,’ even ‘slavery’ to describe how they feel about email. At the heart of the problem is debilitating sense of lack of control.
- Studies have linked frequent email checking with higher levels of anxiety. Even more disturbing, one study found that frequent email checkers had higher levels of cortisol, the definitive chemical signature of physically damaging stress.
- Also highly stressful–regardless of whether a person initiates or responds to an important email, more often than a person might think, it needs to be composed as if it will be read in a disposition. And, worst can scenario, that can happen! Jobs and reputations have been lost because of intemperate or ill-conceived emails.
- On a personal level, incendiary email exchanges are more likely to end relationships than face-to-face arguments. Email is not an effective tool for working through differences with others.
- Though spam filters have improved in recent years, the typical person’s email inbox is a mishmash of everything from intimate correspondence to critical, time-stamped business documents. Organizing so much information requires constant work.
- Finally, When important email gets lost in cyberspace, as still happens, dire consequences can ensue.
In the balance, email still does what it was supposed to do, even better than before. Despite its many competitors, it isn’t about to disappear. I’ll explore why that is the case in Part II of this article.