Email Overload
July 23, 2007 5:09 PM   Subscribe

E-motional breakdown: The state of e-mail misery. Is email finally at the breaking point? My inbox is so oversaturated I need professional advice to avoid bankrupcy. Or maybe I'll just wait it out -- the kids might know best.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (32 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I need a 'meh' flag.
posted by spiderwire at 5:24 PM on July 23, 2007

My inbox isn't oversaturated. I conclude the problem is not with email but with you.

posted by DU at 5:33 PM on July 23, 2007

I hope Andy Rooney lives long enough to do a piece on this crazy email.
posted by birdherder at 5:33 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I find the whole “email information overload” stance agrarian – it is a big wide interconnected world out there kids and like learning to read and write you have to learn to be able to skim subject headings and prioritise your work load in a modern workplace.

[on preview what du said more succintly]
posted by Samuel Farrow at 5:37 PM on July 23, 2007

"And why do we need all this 'eee-mail'? I stilll can't get a computer to work. I'll just stick with myy typewriter. It's stilll faster than the original Gutenberg I bought as a young man, and that's goodenough for me. ...Goodnight."

That's about the best Andy Rooney impression I can do in HTML.
posted by spiderwire at 5:41 PM on July 23, 2007

Wendell sent off some more emails?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:45 PM on July 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

And if the other kids sent text messages off a bridge would you?
posted by furtive at 5:59 PM on July 23, 2007
posted by bonaldi at 6:00 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

He went on to note that he had spent 80 hours the prior week sorting through unanswered e-mail built up since January 2002,

Eighty hours? In one week? Flagged for having poor time-management skills.

And since 2002? Would that email that old still even matter?
posted by KokuRyu at 6:04 PM on July 23, 2007

Just don't admit to your administrative staff that you route all their email into a folder that automatically gets deleted every two days. For some reason they get offended about that.
posted by Big_B at 6:13 PM on July 23, 2007

Spam? Is that something I have to not use Gmail to understand?

And that, kids, is what we call weak meme reach.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:26 PM on July 23, 2007

The best approach to e-mail is to respond instantly -- if you take longer to respond, you have to write even more.

OMG WTF. What kind of bullshit etiquette is that? If I read your email the day after you send it, my reply is not going to be longer.
posted by joannemerriam at 6:40 PM on July 23, 2007

What a drama queen.
posted by IronLizard at 6:40 PM on July 23, 2007

Without email where would I get such helpful advice on male enhancement, easy-to-obtain prescription drugs and home refinancing?
posted by clevershark at 6:46 PM on July 23, 2007

When emailing my boss or other type 'a' meat-eaters, I usually create a mini-executive summary of two or three bullet points, plus a requested action and a 'deadline.' The rest of the email is for context.

Otherwise, the email ends up in the memory hole.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:48 PM on July 23, 2007

My boss isn't a type A meat-eater, but I do the same thing because he's hell of busy. Plus if I don't pre-digest the information, he'll digest it and think it was his idea.

..if you take longer to respond, you have to write even more.

No, I understand this feeling. I hate sending off an email and then N days later I get an "OK". It's like....I waited all this time for THAT?
posted by DU at 6:57 PM on July 23, 2007

joannemerriam writes "OMG WTF. What kind of bullshit etiquette is that? If I read your email the day after you send it, my reply is not going to be longer."

It means "respond instantly upon reading", not "respond instantly when they send it". If someone sends you an email on Monday and you read it on Tuesday, and respond immediately, you'll write a short email. If someone sends you an email on Monday, you read it on Tuesday, and you respond two weeks later, you've got to preface it with all the "Sorry this response is so late, things have been really hectic here and it's taking a long time to work through my email" stuff.
posted by Bugbread at 7:31 PM on July 23, 2007

His tube is clogged.
posted by Tube at 9:30 PM on July 23, 2007

This speaks directly to me. I have email in my inbox from 1998 that still needs sorting. That's almost a decade's worth of messages that, on occasion, I have a very vague notion of combing through. Fortunately I've been able to dismiss the idea every time it's popped up for the past ten years, so I can reasonably expect to be able to go another ten or so. But then I'll have 20 years of email waiting for me. I don't see any way out of this hole, frankly.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:47 PM on July 23, 2007

Heh. I actually got an email response from Lawrence Lessig.
posted by delmoi at 10:03 PM on July 23, 2007

Heh. I actually got an email response from Lawrence Lessig.

Is it Creative Commons licensed?
posted by spiderwire at 10:38 PM on July 23, 2007

I think this is Andrew Keen in disguise.

Next up - the web is making you stupid. Film at, uhhhhhhh, eleven?
posted by Happy Dave at 12:39 AM on July 24, 2007

You've got to be kidding me.

Viruses and malware trojans pile up in my spam box every day, like so many paperclip attachment icons in the corner of my screen. My mail client is constantly bombarded by odd beat poetry made up of cutout blog snippets reconstituted into spam filter foilers, some of which is apparently lifelike enough that some word collages succeed and make it into my inbox.

HTML mail used to be a nuisance; now it's a festering breeding ground for fake eBay password scams and Fifth Third Bank account scams and is there even a Fifth Third Bank? Spammers continue to go to great lengths to subvert even the humble JPG image file with messages about C!ALI$ COCKS. They're everywhere, using any kind of language, trickery far lower than the rhetorical kind, into symbols masquerading as characters, automated messages masquerading as 25-year-old women with horny picture for you, pharmacy shills and penny stocks masquerading as news about Drew Carey accepting prize on Jeopardy. Obfuscation and camouflage and outright confusion, 100 messages every day, never an end in sight, always getting worse.

I have a small mp3blog. I get, maybe, 300 visits a day if I'm lucky. And yet you should see the number of PR people who think I'm important enough to send advance MP3s direct via e-mail, or links to "secret" downloadable EPs, or invites to posh club nights in distant NYC sponsored by some car company or electronics manufacturer or what have you. Hey, did you hear? Paul McCartney's got a new video! Hey, did you hear? Paul McCartney's got a new video! Hey, did you hear? It's got Katie Holmes in it! Hey, did you hear? Paul McCartney's got a new video!

Legions of thinly veiled vacuum cleaner salespeople, lacking the honesty to admit that raw diamond-in-the-rough singer-songwriter troubadour didn't just luck into Top 40 spins across 300 radio stations, lacking the honesty to admit they don't really know who I am or why they're bothering me with this, but oh so demanding of my time that I won't give them. Should we update our mailing lists? Did you get that album link I sent you? Why won't you e-mail us back? We just want to tell you about Paul McCartney! "The sender would like to know when you've read their message. Acknowledge receipt?"

E-mail these days is such a pain in the ass. We're slowly losing the war against spam, people still open attachments blindly, ISPs keep blocking outgoing SMTP server access for no reason, and even vaguely legitimate businesses pester you with newsletters and special offers and cries of attention, please listen to me, no no don't tune me out and turn me off! And of all these problems, these very serious problems that cause system administrators to pull their hair out, normal users to distrust every message they read, and tons of workers to lose productive time over nonsensical messages, let alone the malicious ones, let alone the misdirected ones, let alone the advertising ones, let alone the low-priority ones—stress over feeling the need to check e-mail and respond all the time is the cause of this author's ennui?

We're fucking holding back the tide with our bare hands here. Moaning about how the air tastes too damp will get you a punch in the face, just as soon as one of us can spare a fist to send in your direction.
posted by chrominance at 2:31 AM on July 24, 2007 [7 favorites]

P.S. to the clothing site that probably leaked my credit card info a couple of months back to some guy with a penchant for online poker: you stop sending me multiples (multiples! click send ONCE!) of e-mail messages about how your store is coming back online we promise, and I won't burn your place of business down the next time I'm in town, capiche?
posted by chrominance at 2:34 AM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

P.P.S. Don't even get me started on comment spam.
posted by chrominance at 2:36 AM on July 24, 2007

Thanks, bugbread, that makes way more sense.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:33 AM on July 24, 2007

Have you not heard of email-bankruptcy? When the list carries on building and you have to just give up, DELETE THEM ALL! Its a lot cheaper and loads more satisfying than trying to plough through. Then send out a email to everyone saying you had a computer virus or summit and if they sent you something important please send it again; take it for granted half the stuff you won't see again.

Its a whole lot cheaper than throwing your computer out of a window and having to go through the boredom of buying a new laptop
posted by MarkeD at 8:13 AM on July 24, 2007

Pfft, man up Nancy. If your email client isn't auto-sorting every email somewhere, flagging it and possibly marking it as read automatically, you're going to lose. I get maybe 2-300 emails a day, virtually all of which are far less than time critical. The one or two that are important show up immediately by where they land. Oh and I'm postmaster@ and root@ a half-dozen domains.

My boss' email system is even more absurd/impressive. He's run into Outlook's 2gig limit several times.
posted by Skorgu at 8:32 AM on July 24, 2007

Badshah said that to subscribe to only one social network means losing out on friendships with people who are active on other rival social networks.

I'm ok with losing friendships that require a specific social network service. If my friends really want to talk to me, I like to think they're capable of email. Or even logging out of Myfacehi5ster and picking up a phone. I really dislike these interviews with younger people that make us all sound supertrendy and all infatuated with the newfangled technologies ZOMG!! to the point of mental bankruptcy.
posted by Tehanu at 10:46 AM on July 24, 2007

I got good advice once upon a time from someone (may have even been a fellow Mefite) regarding email:

-Respond during set hours only. For personal things, like close friends or family, exceptions can be made - but for business don't respond outside of business hours. When possible, wait a day before sending a response.

-The longer the email, the shorter your response should be. 47 pages of explanation should be responded to with "OK", "YES" or "NO" and nothing more.

The basic idea is to force your contacts to understand that (a) you have better things to do than spend your personal time answering work-related email, and (b) brevity is damn well appreciated.

The end result is that some people get pissed and stop emailing you, while others start to understand and email you less often and with a better signal-to-noise ratio. Either way it reduces your inbox contents. I've only taken this to heart with students, but it does seem to work, and it keeps me sane. Use this tactic with your superiors at your own risk.

As for sorting old email - I have nothing older than 1998 any more, thanks to an inbox crash years ago. These days I pretty religiously archive stuff three to four times per year. We save stuff like email because (like personal files) we think it has some meaning - but (unlike actual paper) it takes up no more physical space than a hard drive or disc. If my inbox and archives were a file cabinet, I would have cleaned it out years ago and thrown most of it away. Sometimes I feel like deleting it all. I haven't needed the vast majority of it since it was first archived.

The only reason I don't just toss it is simple - it takes up very little physical space, and it's too much of a pain in the ass to sort the stuff that is worth saving from the junk.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:47 PM on July 24, 2007

He's run into Outlook's 2gig limit several times.

Is he using email for file storage as well and doesn't want to re-download those attachments to My Docs?
posted by ao4047 at 12:24 AM on July 25, 2007

Just read Bit Literacy, which offers a simple solution to e-mail overload.

(See Lifehacker's review from today.)
posted by mark7570 at 2:07 PM on July 25, 2007

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