There’s a certain charm to the notion of life without email, don’t you think? In the beginning, we all knew it would become this amazing, revolutionary technology. “It will make us smarter, faster, more efficient,” we cheered. “Communication will never be the same again!”
Then came the dark side. The self-righteous co-worker copying the entire company on her Who Moved My Cheese? rant; the crackberry-addicted spouse, furiously thumb-typing under the dinner table because he’s “very important”. Legions of quantity over quality emailers, pushing millions of poorly chosen words across the information superhighway, just because they can.
It stands to reason, then, that a backlash would occur. A movement of counselors, communicators and advisors, urging you to curb your abusive subject lines, count to ten before blasting back at someone’s thoughtless tirade and, in case you’re looking for something really fun to do today, create a company email usage policy.
The email fundamentalist.
But for every moderate there is an extremist. In this case it’s John Paul Dejoria. You know his face from the Paul Mitchell shampoo commercials. And if you watch this video, you’ll also know him as the guy who couldn’t figure out how to use email effectively, and decided not to use it at all.
His reasoning is simple: he is so important that people would email him constantly, most of them asking for a handout, like a benevolent king, striding purposefully past his subjects, dropping coins in the hands of the needy.
What about you? Could you be two peas in a pod with John Paul? Would you prefer to go through life as it was before email?
Not so fast.
I have a feeling the ramifications outweigh the benefits. Sure, you might achieve a zen-like state, free from carbon copied inanity and repetitive stress related injury. But something tells me that it’s easier to do when you’ve got as much money in the treasury as King Dejoria.
If you’re still working your way towards the fortune you envision for yourself, consider how green the grass really is on the other side. Picture, for instance, the increase in phone calls. The greetings, the small talk, the constant ringing. Need to review a proof of the ad you’re about to run in Vanity Fair? Better get a bike messenger to bring it over. Efficiency flies out the window, all in the name of restricted access and a peaceful, quiet work life.
I call shenanigans on the concept of banishing email to improve one’s life. I argue that the key here, like my dad always says, is moderation. If you don’t want to be available, quit your email app and don’t start it up again until you’re ready to deal. If poor organization is your issue, learn to use automated rules and smart folders. If you’re easily distracted, it’s not your email’s fault, you need to get better at compartmentalizing your day.
It's here to stay, for now.
Like it or not, the world runs on email. A citizen of the modern economy can no more give up our most popular method of communication than a businessman circa 1930 could have refused to use those pneumatic tubes that carried important communiques from the blue collars in the mailroom to the white collars in the executive suite.
The question is not, would you survive without email? The question is, should you try to survive without email? And the answer is no. Just remember that email works for you and not the other way around.