Like, duh, we all do. But most people seem capable of responding to theirs timely. I suck. I can put off responding to – or even reading – an email for months. I used to do it for years.
And yet, for any kind of project work or long-form communication, I vastly prefer it to the other options. I have enough experience with this that just the idea of using Discord or, shudder, Facebook Messenger to corral people together makes me want to vomit. Emails are clunky, procrastination-fuelling, broken up into confusing chains, but they’re somehow still the best we have.
What I particularly hate about modern emails isn’t so much the writing and responding to real people. It’s the marketing. It used to be, you’d sign up for a site or a forum, and you’d get a welcome email, password resets, and depending on how jaunty they were feeling, a happy birthday email. Nowadays, I can’t open a website, even a government website, without half the screen being blocked by a banner insisting that I sign up. And when I do, I’m bombarded with newsletters for something I wasn’t even particularly interested in in the first place.
And the worst? You hunt for the ‘unsubscribe’ button, buried in a paddling pool of text for ants, and it tells you you’ve been unsubscribed from just this one specific type of email, meaning you’ll still get them for the fourteen other categories. F*ck off!
I used email for ages before I realised I was supposed to delete emails. I still effectively treat read status as deleted. I use ‘mark as unread’ instead of starring or labelling most of the time. I’m aware that in terms of email hygiene I’m a filthy miasmic medieval peasant, but I can’t convince myself that the incremental gains from unfucking my inbox would actually be worth the considerable time investment. And I’d have to make a new account on some new app that wants to scrape my data.
Maybe we have it lucky, though. In ’emerging digital markets’, most people hardly use email at all. In China, almost everything is done through WeChat, which is like Whatsapp, if you could also use Whatsapp to pay your bills and search for jobs. Could you imagine talking to your boss through Whatsapp?? Ugh.
I suppose I don’t hate emails. I hate the use and abuse of them we have nowadays. The actual technology, infinitely interfaceable, lightweight and free, is fantastic, and will outlast all these whizzy blobby nonsense apps. I just wish the world and her wife would stop hanging their leaden coats on it.