Is Email Still Effective?

So in last Saturday’s New York Times there was an article entitled “When E-Mail Turns From Delight to Deluge” – and of course I had to read this one in its entirety as I constantly debate whether my life would be better or worse without email. A well paved mental path of anguish that I am sure many travel up and down several times per week.

Of course the article starts out drawing a comparison from the good ole’ days of AOL’s “You’ve got mail” shouting across one’s living room to the dreaded current day when the more email you have the more coffee (or in my case tea) and stress relieving exercise one needs.

The article’s author Jenna Wortham uses her own personal email frustrations to point out the obvious – unread email NEVER ends! As a writer for the NY Times I am sure she has plenty of PR firms, like Conceptual Communications constantly barking down her email doggie door to cover this and that – the lot she and PR firms have chosen 🙂

Ok so in the article she writes and I quote “Email was once a great tool for communication, one that was less intrusive than the telephone and faster than the Postal Service.”

Don’t worry I am going to give you her subsequent sentence – but wanted to pause a moment to address this point first – my initial reaction is “umm hello, has something changed with email that I am not aware of?” Of course it is still much, much, much more convenient than the telephone, postal services or dare I say fax. I and many others I know couldn’t possible dream of being as efficient without email.

Hemingway's House in Key West, FL
Hemingway’s House in Key West, FL

Here is the best part – so I am reading this article while on a brief mini vacation in Key West with some very close pals of mine – another couple and her parents – who have both lived and continue to live extraordinary lives. They are so loyal to the NY Times and read it every single day  – So, the following day over lunch,  we (my boyfriend and I) bring up (in true Portlandia style) the “have you read that article in the TImes… the one about how email is a complete frustration” and  my girlfriend’s father, the former FAA chairman under President Carter, plainly states “I don’t do Technology!” but he says it in a nice, grandfatherly tone that is nothing short of absolute certainty.

That’s it – he had me at hello – so I reply “ok, enlighten me” – he then goes on to tell me how he has NEVER used email… that’s it, I am completely astonished at this point and about to walk to Duval Street and check myself in to crazyville. It would be one thing if I were talking to a normal retiree but no, this fine gent was the FAA chairman under President Carter, I mean there is no way that he has gotten through the last 30 plus years communicating with contacts, friends etc. without email.

So here comes my follow up – “so how do you do it, no cell phone, no email…” His response: “I have always had my secretary print my emails and fax them to me.”

And there you have it – the alternative to email – I am thinking “huh, ok. so that’s not an option” – it would have been one thing if he said – I just don’t do email, we use the phone and write letters that are sent by carrier pigeon, but he didn’t – he is still forced to interact with email he just chooses to do it in a more round about way.

Ok so back to the article, the subsequent sentence to Jenna’s first statement “Now, even when it works as designed it’s a virtual nightmare – and occasionally, an actual one.”

I see where she is coming from, but here is my nightmare – having to travel from client to client or place to place and having to stop at a fax machine (wherever they still exist) every hour on the hour to have printed emails sent to me as opposed to sliding over my little button on my i-phone, typing in my 4-digit passcode and having all my email appear right before my brown eyes from anywhere at basically anytime – ok that’s it – we cracked the case – thanks to my brief visit in Key West at just the right moment as Jenna’s article was published I have saved myself from my own deluge.


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