Email has lost its charm.
Remember the movie, “You’ve Got Mail,” and the delight Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan would feel when they heard the friendly AOL voice of the 90’s telling them they received a new message? Now that ping of a new email hitting your inbox more often than not represents one thing…dread. Your boss emailing you at 9pm, a client letting you know there is a problem, Bank of America alerting you that your card has been compromised…again.
More and more receiving an email is losing its appeal — it’s the empty inbox that is a thrill. As Slack’s co-founder, Stewart Butterfield said, “There’s a billion fucking things you have to do in your life, and email is the distillation of the other stuff that other people want you to do.”
Email’s design doesn’t help. Try as they might, on the whole email just hasn’t evolved at pace. Gmail tries to make sorting through emails more efficient with snooze buttons and labels like “Important,” “Promotional,” “Social,” etc. “The trouble,” Aza Raskin said for FastCoDesign is that “the triage is a never ending process. You have to constantly attend to it, or just let your email pile up and say, ‘Eh, if I miss something here and it’s important, they’ll get in touch with me some other way.’”
The email “thread” is just as irritating and lacks a smart design. “What’s going to happen to digital communication over the next five years? Will we still be weeding out unimportant messages and fishing through enormous email chains, trying to find one pesky link to a business plan? Will we still battle to get to inbox zero?” ponders John Brandon in Inc’s “Why Email Will Be Obsolete in 2020.” “I sure hope not.”
In the workplace, there are competing platforms that are offering more efficient solutions than email. Slack, for example, creates a public archive of discussions that are easily searchable. Everyone with access can view conversations and add comments.
And why even send an email at all when you can send a text, Facebook message, Snapchat, etc.? There are a lot of social networks competing here. In the past, friends would send friends emails — this is happening less and less with social networking sites allowing for easier communication and coordination.
It’s possible that a person under the age of twenty doesn’t even use a personal email address outside of where it’s required — for instance school or to create an account on a website. In Gallup’s report, “New Era of Communication Among Americans”, it notes that 68% of young people between 18–29 years old send a text every day, while only 47% of those people sampled send an email.
Do we even have the attention spans to write an email anymore? In this day and age, why would we spend the time writing actual sentences when we could just use three emojis?
This all said, love it or hate it, email is probably sticking around a while longer. Slack’s Butterfield asserts, “Email isn’t going away. Maybe by 2080. It’s got decades left at least.”
Hey — even the United States Postal Service is still around… we just no longer expect to get anything more than bills or junk mail in it.
“The bad news is that, because email is so ubiquitous, idiot-proof, and just plain useful, there will never be a ‘solution’ for its shortcomings in the general case: not design-wise, not tech-wise, not socially, culturally, organizationally, psychologically, ergonomically or biologically. Email is just too many things to too many people, all at once, everywhere,” John Pavlus writes in FastCoDesign’s “How Has Email Become the Most Reviled Communication Experience Ever.”
So it’s looking like we’re stuck with email for a while longer. In the meantime, let’s continue to figure out ways to make email work better for us — whether that is using new interoffice platform solutions like Slack to make workplace communication more efficient or continuing to discover more engaging ways to communicate with friends.
How can we continue to evolve our communication strategies so we aren’t slaves to our inboxes?
CEO & Entreprenuer || @thedavegrossman
Why Email Will Be Obsolete by 2020 — Inc, April 2015
How Email Became the Most Reviled Communication Experience Ever- Fastcodesign, June 2015
New Era of Communication Among Americans — Gallop, 2014