The plights and sometimes pleasure of e-mail

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Today I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with my work e-mail. Specifically organizing it. And more honestly, the relationship had much more hate than love in it.

Today consisted of a lot of bewilderment on my part and resulted in plenty of — as they say in Internet world –facepalming.

facepalmingOn a daily basis I find myself frustrated with e-mail, either at my e-mail program or at the culture e-mail has created. Everyone’s bemoaned the state of affairs when people are more likely to e-mail than walk 10 feet to speak face to face. You’ve heard the rants about the Reply All Person who insists on copying the world anytime he or she sends a message. E-mails been a workplace mainstay for over a decade–we know all these things by now.

But with everyone (including us, here at The Work Buzz) prattling on about social media–Facebook this, Tweet that, Digg what? and on and on, I figured it’s time to remember why e-mail still has some pros to it after all these years. Anything to keep me from throwing my laptop against the wall. Silly? Perhaps.

1. I need more than 140 characters to say anything important. I try to be pithy, but work e-mails are not poetry. Sad but true. Give me a full e-mail to write what I want.

2. I like Facebook, but no serious work discussion is happening on there. You can network, but you’re probably not going to discuss important details on your Wall, are you?

3. E-mail might be abused, but more often than not, I’d rather see an e-mail notification pop up in the corner of my screen than hear a phone ringing or see a red light indicating a voicemail. If it will only take a few seconds, by all means, call…but when I need to do a little research to get your answer, an e-mail is probably best. At least I can delete a boring e-mail. I can’t hang up on a boring caller. (Or can I?)

4. I e-mail people in locations around the country (and globe), so it is easier to communicate via e-mail. Aligning my schedule with someone in Europe isn’t easy on our sleep habits.

5. Is there anything more glorious than a clean inbox? The existence of e-mail gives me the pleasure of cleaning out my inbox and seeing only a few (or no) e-mails there–which gives me a weird sense of accomplishment. Even if that’s the only thing I’ve done all day.

This post was also inspired by news that the UK is officially beginning to log all e-mail and online activity (or they’re requiring ISPs to do so, rather). A lot of US employers already do this with company e-mail and Internet activity, and it got me thinking that 20 years ago this wasn’t really an issue we were thinking about. Now e-mails and all its issues (privacy, annoyances, benefits)  are so commonplace at work, we don’t even think twice about them.

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