In defense of email (just think of the alternative)

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Another day, another story about someone deciding to “quit” email. It seems it’s very stressful, getting all these messages, and apparently this is a feeling “everyone” shares. Oh really?

Yes, I know what it’s like to have thousands of unanswered emails in my inbox, looming large. And more than a few times I’ve started the day answering emails, only to look up and find the morning has gone already. This is why I have implemented rules for my email inbox: a few filters, some vigorous unsubscribing, and a frankly brilliant tactic that means turning the bloody thing off when I am on deadline. But quitting email altogether? Madness.

It brings to mind the time Kramer, the star of the strangely underrated sit-com “Seinfeld”, decided to quit post. Infuriated with the amount of catalogues he was receiving, he boarded up his mail slot and decided to go off the grid. It didn’t go so well – because however we feel about the post, electronic or otherwise, we need a way for people to get hold of us.

Consider the alternatives. Twitter is often suggested, but it’s not exactly great for communicating as it’s short, and very public. You can’t exactly forward documents to people via Twitter, or inform your boss you need an hour off to go to the doctor again because that rash won’t go.

Then what? The post? We can’t go back there, it’s consigned to history. The only thing I ever receive in the post are packets from Amazon, that free paper from the council that no one reads, and bank statements – I had to change these back to paper as I was denied a Russian visa because I could not prove where I live (true story).

So then, this means if you give up email you are left with the phone. Talk about disruptive – having that thing going off all day, cornering you with requests that need to be answered immediately. One day we will all be sufficiently cloud-based to rely on Twitter to swap links to documents stored elsewhere, but that day is years away. In the meantime you are just going to have to find a way of dealing with that bursting inbox. At least you can comfort yourself with the fact that unlike the phone, with email at least you have the option of hitting “delete”.

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  • One thing about email that makes it better than FB or twitter etcin many cases is that it’s not controlled by any one company. New rules won’t change how your emails are sent or delivered, they can be stored locally and it’s all but impossible to miss one. Most web forms would be screwed without email too. Dunno about you, but I search for emails by name or subject and delete them en masse..or store them en masse. Can’t do that with social networks easily. Only a fool dumps email,or someone who just goes online to gossip and play.

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