Ahh, email. A convenience we have all come to rely on and frankly could not live without. And why would we even want to? It’s superfast, convenient and literally ALWAYS at out fingertips. It’s a great way a get a point across to the masses and (often) get immediate reaction – or better yet – action. It’s in many ways replaced the cost and inefficiency of snail mail. And best of all – look at all those trees we’re saving from an early demise. Sounds good. It definitely is. Definitely even great in some ways. How can something that saves us all so much time and money (and trees) be nothing but great? Well, I hate to say it – but it also truly stinks in lots of ways. Yes, that’s right – I said it stinks. And before you roll your eyes, call me a cranky old lady and stop reading, do me a favor and read on. In fact, do yourself a favor and read on. Because I bet if I don’t share any evils of email here that you haven’t thought of or experienced yourself (yet), I’ll start to make a hater out of you too.
So, there’s clearly some great things about email. But what’s so bad about it? Well, here are my top ten reasons why I think email can be evil. And sometimes drive me to drink. Literally.
- The long winded sender (or responder): We’ve all been there. An email so long that you open it, cry a little inside and shut it immediately. Is whatever I needed even in this novel I just got? You tell yourself, “I can’t deal with this now.” And you may even print it out to read on the train ride home to avoid stressing over a weak or complete lack of cellular signal in the subway. So much for saving the tree.
- The group email: Simply put – shoot me now. Because the second you are unfortunate enough to be on a group email, you know what that means. No matter what it’s about – a legitimate work issue, the fact that someone is visiting the office with their cute new baby, that Jenny’s birthday today, or that there’s leftover stale bagels from the morning meeting (yum?). Despite how well intended the email is – with EVERY group email, WITHOUT fail, means you are now subject to….
- The group responses: There’s nothing good about this. Yes, you may a little information you could use. Sometimes even a little laugh. But in most cases, the benefit of the tiny laugh or small bit of useful information you MAY get is quickly overcome by debates and pissing contests between those that just need to get the last word in – sometimes over NOTHING. Did I say shoot me now?
- The abbreviated response: Now, while the long winded response is pretty bad – the abbreviated one can be just as annoying. For instance, you send a (quick) email and ask in closing, “What time works for you to meet? 3 or 4?” And you get a response like, “yes”. What the hell does that mean? Are you agreeing we should meet? Does this mean either time works for you? While you tried to save yourself (literally 2 seconds) time, now I have to torture myself to send you another email to clarify. Thanks a lot, lazy pants.
- The abbreviated (completely asinine) response: In a cruel quest to save time – I suppose from typing real phrases or words (with actual) letters, you get a one liner like “c u l8er”. What the hell does that say? Did he mean “color” and he somehow slipped an 8 in there by accident (and also a “u” instead of an “o”)? Did he mean “cooler” and doesn’t know how to spell that either? Oh wait – this Morse code means “see you later”. Oh, ok. I am at work, right? I thought for a second I was having a seizure – or maybe a text message with an 11 year old. I think after this one, I may do everything in my power to avoid seeing you at all costs later – assuming you don’t actually nail me at the water cooler. Who does this?? You should not be allowed to use email (or actually be employed) ever again.
- The forwarder: Forwarding a message is often necessary and doesn’t HAVE to be an evil of email, assuming it’s done in a thoughtful and professional manner. What makes this act evil is when the forwarder does just that. And maybe just add their own little touch of “see below” to (pitifully and unsuccessfully) make it their own. Really? So you’re basically now asking me to sift through something that was sent to you, to figure out what it means. That’s pretty horrible and lazier than lazy (clearly another “lazy pants” moment). I think the best way to fix an abusive forwarder, is to forward the email back to them. And ask them to call you to discuss once they’ve clarified the issue. They deserve email privileges with you to be revoked after this potential waste of YOUR time.
- That awful realization – that you just sent your email to the wrong recipient: I already said shoot me now, didn’t I? Well, it works here too. Most times you can just ask apologize and ask the recipient to disregard. But “shoot me now” is the appropriate reaction, if the email was confidential information – or worse – about the person that you actually sent it to. Breathe, try to retract it or do whatever damage control you can to fix this one. Try not to actually shoot yourself – these mistakes can happen. And probably has already to most everyone.
- The (un)emotional email: You know what lost in translation means, right? And email is a major culprit. Sometimes emotion does not come across as the sender – or recipient – intends. And then the email volley begins. Please stop. Sometimes, it’s necessary to go back to use a device from back in dark ages to avoid this potential debacle….PICK UP THE PHONE. No one likes to do that anymore. Try it. You may like it.
- The URGENT, exclamation point email!: Have you heard the story of the boy who cried wolf? That’s another classic from the dark ages. Familiarize yourself with it if you’re not already. And understand this. Not every email can possibly be urgent and take precedence over the 10 previous emails you just sent in the last hour with that dreaded exclamation point. Worse than these emails alone, is when “NEEDED BY COB!!!!!!” is in the subject line. Give me a break and understand this. You’re not getting any of this by COB(!!!).
- That email notification sound – when you’ve finally gone to bed: There may not be anything worse. Should I get up and see what it is (at midnight)? You have angst just thinking about it. Do I get up and check it, so I know what I have to deal with tomorrow? Maybe I can just answer this quick and have one less email to answer tomorrow. The short answer to this quandary – NO. Unless you are actually expecting one – emails that come through at midnight are either spam or from someone who sadly is just getting through their pile of long winded emails, group emails and responses, abbreviated Morse code responses, forwarded nonsense, (un)emotional emails and emails from cyborgs that have no idea how to decipher what’s urgent or not. Rest easy knowing that’s all that notification sound at midnight means – and go to bed feeling nothing but empathy for this poor lost (in email) soul.
- What’s the one thing my top 10 evils of email have in common? Yep, they are all a complete waste of our time. That tool we’ve embraced as a time saver is actually costing all so much more of our precious time. We all want to be efficient. We all want to get the work done. But let’s actually get it done, not just push it around through email. Aside from being mindful of all of the above, let’s try this. Get back to basics – talk to your co-workers. That’s right – get up, stretch those bones a little and go have a quick face to face conversation with the person you’re emailing – that may be sitting at the desk right next to you. Pick up the phone and have a discussion with someone. Have a meeting to avoid long winded group emails. As hard as it may be sometimes, check that email only a couple times a day when you’re very busy. Shut down at a certain time at night. In the quest to save time, we are losing ourselves – and our minds.
So, stop and think before you send that email. Is it a time save or a time suck? If it’s a suck, remember this – stop it, drop it and save a lost soul from email. PLEASE.