Taming the E-mail Beast
“Feed the e-mail beast. We all do it, from the time we log on in the morning till late in the day when a last thought needs to be shared with a colleague or friend,” wrote Paul McDougall and Elena Malykhina on InformationWeek.com in 2006. “We’re sending messaging morsels over mobile devices to try to satiate its insatiable appetite. Don’t feed the beast—take off a week, a day, even an hour—and you fall dangerously behind.”
Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, once had 2,500 unread e-mails in her inbox and declared “e-mail bankruptcy.” She told everyone on her e-mail list that she had not responded and to contact her again if it were important. And then she deleted it all. It was she who reportedly coined the phrase “e-mail bankruptcy” back in 1999.
“It’s a metaphor for basically reassessing where your e-mail habit has taken you,” Turkle told CTV in Canada, “and what you need to do to get it under control.”
Readers of this cranky little e-zine know that if they send in a comment—whether for publication or privately—they will always get a personal reply from me unless they send the wrong return address.
When I told my wife, Peggy, how I deal with e-mail, she told me I was doing it all wrong.
If you have a better system, I (and your fellow readers) would sure like to hear it.
A Liberating Experience
I loved having a one-line address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Just 17 characters and a dot was all that was needed to reach me 24/7 through any Internet portal in the world.
Then I heard a recording of Vincent Ferrari, who tried to cancel his AOL account and the AOL rep refused. The conversation got ugly and turned into a PR catastrophe for AOL, one from which the company never really recovered. (If you’ve forgotten this exercise in marketing sleaze, see the hyperlink below.) I opened a Yahoo! account, and an amazing thing happened: My inbox was suddenly manageable. Instead of hundreds of e-mails a day, I was getting 20 to 30.