Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why I Think Email Is Dead

Well, I don't think it's dead per se, but it's definitely being Archived. I'll tell you why. Don't agree? Fair enough, let me know why. ;)
So recently I've run into a sort of email landslide sort of situation, and, completely lost and ashamed, decided to look for help online. Interestingly, I found that not only was I not alone, but very organized, highly efficient people have had to face similar breakdowns way before me. Well, that made me straighten the old backbone a little bit more, and read on with amazement. The monster lurking in my backyard seems to have rummaged through a whole lot of mailboxes before. And while sometimes it left some wreckage behind, most often it left people wiser and more adept -- and with a sleek and sexy inbox.

And what made that inbox sexy? According to my research, it was the following features. First, it was empty. Google the zero inbox approach, and revel in complete inbox emptiness at all times. But that's not all. My inbox is far from empty, but I'll tell you it's a lot sexier now than it used to be. And that's due to the fact that now it looks a lot more like a set of tiles in Keep, a To-Do list in any of those sleek Android apps, or a categorized and orderly message board in Facebook. All in all, it's accessible and easy to manage from any mobile device. And that's essential in this age of fully packed schedules and push notifications. If that leaves you frowning or grimacing with confusion, you've got the gist. Email is no more like email. It's not what it used to be. Is that a good thing? It depends on how you look at it.

From where I see it it's quite a mixed picture. On the one hand it's baaaad, because I have fond memories of the golden days, the days before spam and emails without the proper forms of politeness. It's also rather uncomfortable, because I have these tens of gigabytes of emails I have no idea what to do with. I don't like the way they bulk and bulge and seep into my daily life, but I can't just chuck them out either. I could write an immense circular asking people not to email me anymore, but it makes me feel dizzy if I only think about where that would lead... This state email has come into makes me quite frustrated, I must admit. But there is a silver lining.

Because the fact that emails have become so cumbersome and weird tells me that a new function is to be found for them. People were beginning to say around ten years ago that email was the new SMS, but SMS has died a painful death since then, and email has not been doing such an awesome job of filling in for it. It's always been too sophisticated, too well kept and documented to do that. Messy email still looks like a messy filing cabinet and nothing like an inspiration board. Email was never designed to be messy and instantaneous, and I don't think it should make any attempt in that direction. The new function I see for it to undertake is not that of text messages but of ordinary paper based correspondence. That's where it's needed and where it would shine.

So what happens to email now? What have I done with it? I revamped my Gmail mailbox with a completely new approach in mind. First I labeled everything I thought I might need to find later on through a number of filters. Then I archived the whole lot, even adding a master label on top of everything, giving it a name so that it got pushed to the bottom of the list, only displayed in the web version if for some reason a new email ended up there. But otherwise they got tucked away, to be pulled out only at need. And the new inbox I have? It's way more like the arrival hall of a busy airport. Emails that are not labeled and/or archived automatically end up here. Since I normally view new mail on my Android phone first, by the time I get to look at them in my web browser they've traditionally become a mess of read-unread junk with the occasional important or urgent message, and stuff that I don't need now but might very well at some point... Quite frustrating. Now that's gone. They land and are either deleted, archived under a label (such as URGENT or ACTION NEEDED) where I can handle them once I get hold of a proper keyboard, or left in my inbox for easy access if I plan to draw them out soon, not that I have to. Or, if I have no idea what to do with them, they get simply archived, so in case I need them they're still searchable and are displayed in All Mail. And, depending on how much time I have, when I get down to deal with them (during definite designated time slots throughout the day) I know exactly which label to open.

But that's about emails I still get, and I know I said earlier that I don't really want to get any more. That's completely and painfully true. Then, you might ask, how on earth are people to contact me? Well, the best way to do that is through the myriad of instant messaging apps and platforms. Want to invite me to an event, do it through Facebook. Want to ask me something? Either there or Hangouts. Answer my question, send me an FYI? These two work perfectly. A short message you need quick reply to? WhatsApp, Hangouts and even a text message. Files, pictures, etc? Dropbox. Coupons and discounts? Those have their own apps, don't they?

There's still some stuff I like to get emails about. Bills (until there's a real way to settle them through mobile platforms), receipts, account confirmations, and the like. Exactly the kind of stuff we used to put in good old envelopes. Now you can just fold them in an email and toss it my way. I'll probably archive it under a label and tuck it away, but I will keep it safe. As long as email exists.

Thank you for reading this rant. :)
Hope it helps some sort through their messy mailboxes.


1 comment:

  1. I don't agree with you totally. Modern email services are trying to organise your flow of messages in the most convenient way. Spam, ads, important- all these filters makes my life easy