I am an email maven. I admit it. I love email. I think it is one of the greatest things ever invented. So I am naturally amazed at how often I hear people disparaging it. People say they hate email, don’t want any more email, get angry at email, feel overwhelmed by email, don’t come near me with email.
Managing email comes very easy to me. But I’m a fast typist, so I can whisk through replies, archiving, unsubscribing or whatever, very quickly and easily. And my theory has always been that the anti-email people feel that way because they are not good typists. (Oddly, I owe my typing skills to something I thought was sexist and offensive at the time – the practice of forcing girls in high school to take typing lessons in I-won’t-say-what-decade. Who knew it would turn out to be so useful!)
Anyway, I set out to prove the typing theory and discovered I was wrong not only about the typing, but about the sentiments of the majority in general. I sent a survey to about a thousand people of varied demographics and got 68 responses.
Question 1 – How do you feel about email?
While only 10 percent said they loved email like me, over 85 percent either liked it or were at least at peace with it; 12 percent said they tolerated it, but only 3 percent really despised it.
Question 2 – What do you like about email?
This was a “check all that apply” question, and the most checked answers included the freedom to send and reply on one’s own schedule, being able to share attachments and having a written record of communication. I gave people a choice to check “I don’t like anything about email” and it got ZERO responses.
Question 3 – What do you dislike about email?
The surprising most checked answer to this was “I dislike that people use email to avoid live interaction.” Despite my affection for email I have noted on many occasions that it is a passive-aggressive’s dream come true and certainly can be used to duck and shirk. Glad so many people are onto those tactics.
The only other answer that came close was “Other,” which had a variety of write-in comments, the majority of which had to do with dislike of too many marketing emails. I found this surprising because these are the easiest ones to deal with – you either delete them, mark them as spam or unsubscribe.
Question 4 – How would you describe your proficiency at managing email?
Fifty-one percent said they are good at it although they consider it a chore; 28 percent considered themselves expert. Only two people admitted to being overwhelmed by managing email.
Question 5 – Which of these things might make you feel better about email?
Another surprise. The most checked answer to this was “Nothing, I already like it!” But behind that came wishing for greater proficiency with email application features and help with filtering and controlling spam.
Lastly, we asked “What else would you like to say about email?” We had 27 responses, most of them reiterating points already made. I liked one particular comment – that the respondent had been nicknamed “Ms. Email” – good for you Ms. Email! There were a few email fans who made a point of saying they hated talking on the phone and there were some strong Outlook vs. Gmail opinions. Fortunately, one person suggested that email should be voice activated to require less typing, so thanks to that person for not making my original thesis 100 percent wrong.
- The anti-email people are more vocal about their feelings but the quieter majority are mostly email fans.
- Pretty much all the benefits you can think of about email are appreciated by most people in a fairly evenly distributed way.
- The biggest irritants of email have to do with lack of proficiency with email applications and too much spam.
So, this exercise cries out for a followup article on email application usage and spam management. Stay tuned!
Robbin Orbison is founder and president of CapeSpace, shared workspace centers located in Hyannis and Mashpee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org