Here in the future of communication, email is a slow, cumbersome relic that exists only to bring me garbage that gets in the way of the long-form text I only kind of want to see.
I have four “active” email accounts, active in the sense that you can send messages to them and then I’ll read them about two weeks from now. In an era defined by notification overload, I’m jacked in to many other direct messaging services that all have instant access to the notifications center on my phone AKA every waking moment of my life.
And, since they aren’t descendants of a messaging form that used to be delivered via horse, they’re all driven by an on-demand social contract that’s both more enticing and more professionally useful to me than the old wait-and-see approach email still cultivates.
If you’ve never ignored a Twitter Direct Message for a few hours just like you used to put off responding to an email, you haven’t really lived.
Messaging services are faster than email because the social burden placed on the quality of the writing is so much lower.
Non-email messaging systems allow me to get work done in a way that’s both more messy and more efficient. I can quickly fire off a reply to a short direct message, and it’s easier to decide if a message is a priority or if it can wait till the end of the day, because it doesn’t take as long to read or reply to. I can always get to the important ones by the end of the day, because I don’t feel like I’m writing a product that has direct ties to pigeons, quills, and the word “correspondence.”
I’m out there on the internet, and my oldest email addresses are far more vulnerable to spam messages than my comment and message inboxes on various social networks.
There are so many quick and easy ways to send me some text and make me see it immediately on my phone screen. Please don’t make me read a long email, unless you’re writing something explicitly made for the format. And then, don’t expect a super quick reply. I’m sorry, that’s just how it is now.
Things were not always thus.
I got way into email circa 1996 as a 12-year-old dude, both through a school-provided account and a personal one tied to my parents’ dial-up internet service. I used to check my email excitedly every day to see if my friends had sent me anything stupid. Frequently they had, and I would spend far more time writing them a “carefully crafted” reply than calling them on the phone would have taken, because it was fun and novel.
This was all back when it was known as “E-mail.” I was one of those people that didn’t want to drop the hyphen, and I stubbornly refused to do so for years. Style manuals can walk off a plank! I paid too much money studying them in college and I can ignore them now if I want! That’s the power of being an adult.
By the time I started high school in the fall of 1998, all of my cool friends had long since moved on to AOL Instant Messenger, and finally deemed me worthy of being told it even existed. I excitedly joined in, often having seven or eight conversations going on at once while also doing my homework…but I still kept obsessively checking my email.
In fact, I kept up with my email every day till just a few years ago. Over the years, the genuine conversations have fallen further and further away into the past, replaced by an increasingly huge pile of spam and automated notifications from services I already check in on without the reminders.
“Yes, thank you for telling me I just paid that bill that I just paid.”
If I had the time and the discipline to properly train my spam filters and disable all those robot messages, my inboxes would be forlorn.
I realize that many folks in the working world can’t ignore email. That they’re bound to it in some eternal struggle to escape the messy, underground nature of quick messaging platforms in the name of professionalism.
I’m fortunate enough to share a physical space with all the people I need to communicate with for work, and for my online writing work there’s really only me. I’d feel bad asking someone out there on the internet who wanted to ask a question or leave a comment to go through the extra step of opening an email client. What’s an email client, anyway?
I miss liking email. About twice a month, I’ll heave my brain through the arduous process of clearing out the digital muck and reply to the few good messages in my email inboxes, then forget about the whole thing till the nagging in the back of my head makes me do it again out of some sense of obligation to the past.
I’ve turned off email notifications for all but one of my accounts on my phone. I have no push notifications for email on my computers whatsoever. Email is essentially dead to me, as dead as the hyphen its official name used to contain.
If we didn’t need it to be the center of our collective online security and identity verification, and a backup system of communication for when large corporations I have no control over whatsoever inevitably shut down or do maintenance work on their social messaging platforms, I’d probably extract myself from the email system entirely.
But I’d miss the memory of it too much to ever really do that. And sometimes, I need to reset my passwords.