A few years ago, or maybe even closer to ten, my profession was buzzing with the end of email. Around this time messaging on social media, or other alternatives, was gaining popularity. I recall one colleague telling me that he would love to give up email and only use Twitter. The catch for him was that not everyone used Twitter, or not enough people used it.
The seduction and ease of email is that it’s universal. Regardless of which browser or type of email account used, they’re all compatible with each other. Unlike my colleague, email is usually a first choice for communication precisely because everybody has it. I imagine my twitter-loving colleague often made tough decisions because not everyone used Twitter. Or he ended up with a lot of hybrid messaging in email and Twitter. Or just reverting back to email because everybody uses it.
Another selling point of email is that it’s reliable. A lot of companies rely on email for communication and sharing information. Even at my job, I’m always amazed at how many important kernels of information and key decisions get buried in emails. Even though I can find things, it seems inefficient to be hunting through emails for essential information. It takes a lot of effort and thread scrolling to find what I need sometimes.
Although email has a lot of compelling reasons to use it, that doesn’t mean we should be using it for everything. Over time, as more types of information started to be shared, email became the starting point. For example, lots of people still share photos as email attachments even though better, easier, and more secure options exist. However, the effort to change to one of those options, or have the new option work for everyone, creates barriers. I know there are better ways for me to share the occasional photo with my friends and family. But email is the fastest and easiest. I know it will work and I don’t have to explain it to anyone. Or train someone on how to use something new. Or require someone to download a new app, or create a new login.
I’m not sure we’ll ever get away from using email. However, we can definitely be a lot more effective managing it. We can also be more selective with how we use it.