Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Email In-Box: How Many Emails – Let Me Count the Ways

Last night I deleted approximately 950 messages from one of my email accounts. Some of these messages I had clicked on and then saved for later reading. Others I hadn’t opened yet.

What made me take this drastic step? In recent days I had repeatedly reached 1000 messages, in which case my email account bounced back additional messages.

Therefore, I bit the bullet and said to myself: “You will never give your full attention to those 950 messages. Just delete them and take the risk that you’ve deleted something important.”

Most of the time I can’t understand people who don’t use email at all. Yet sometimes, such as when I force myself to delete 950 messages, I ponder how much simpler life was before the advent of email, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Friendfeed (the most recent social media platform for which I’ve signed up), etc.

In a nod to fair disclosure, I have also been unsubscribing to all the email advertisements for which I usually just click delete. I’ve decided to take the extra time to click on the unsubscribe buttons, some of which work and some of which don’t. I’m not at all sure I ever agreed to get many of these emails. So now I’ve taken the active step of getting rid of them.

Recently I got two different emails announcing a new book. Each of these emails was quite long, going on and on. I skimmed the emails, then decided to do a good deed:

I replied to these emails suggesting in each case that the person write a much shorter email with a clear headline and bullet-point benefits as to why we should act on the email. I explained that we are all so very busy that long emails are just way too much. Both people responded with thanks, so apparently PZ the Do-Gooder Scrooge didn’t step on any toes those times.

But, honestly, that’s why Twitter with a maximum of 140 characters is so great – it keeps all of our tweets short. Who’s the famous writer of the 19th Century (or 18th Century) who apologized for writing a long letter because he didn’t have time for a short letter? It’s true that I often have to rewrite my tweets to stay within 140 characters. And I’m grateful for that limitation.

If only email had a limitation of 140 characters – or I’d even settle for a limitation of 280 characters.

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