Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Failure to Communicate

Any time is a good time for a

One question. How did email become society's primary means of communication by default?

No really. Is this the only way people communicate anymore? Ok, that's two questions, but come on, there ARE other options out there.

Sure it's fast and easy and all that - and for some things it's irreplaceable, such as transferring files and data. But for getting your message across effectively to your intended recipient? Eh, not so much.

Really, you ask? Yes, really - believe it or not, email ain't the end all. In fact, if I was to rank it based solely on communication effectiveness, I believe it would pretty much fall to the end of the line. Let's take a look:

See what I mean? Evidence like this can NOT be disputed!

So why rant about email? Because, just about every day I sit in my office and have to deal with email problems in one form or another. And now - I'm officially sick of it.

I'm sick of sending people emails only to not have them answered. I'm sick of having to wonder if they even received them. I'm sick of having them only respond to a portion of my questions when I send someone a detailed list of questions. I'm sick of having them bounced back as "undeliverable." I'm just plain sick of it - hence the rant.

But it's not just the little things I listed above that I think are so irritating. Here are a few other reasons why email ranks so low on my list.

Email is:

Often misinterpreted - How many times have you received an email where you had no clue as to what the sender really meant? Was that a joke?

Or perhaps didn't receive an email from someone. I don't get it. I sent her my invitation a week ago. Why isn't she replying? I hope she's not pissed at me about something!

Dangerously easy to send emotionally-charged messages too quickly - (type-tappity-type-type) "Why you b*tch!" (click - send)

Too easy to screw up - "Oh my God! I accidentally left Sarah's snotty comment about Jack in the bottom of the email I just sent him!"

Untrustworthy - As in the only communication method where you have to call someone up after sending them a note, just to verify they received it. That's a little like sending someone a letter in the mail and then driving over to their house a few days later to see if they got it.

Infected with spam and viruses - And a trip to the clinic doesn't help.

A scapegoat for miscommunication - "Of course I didn't show up for the meeting. Didn't you get my email?"

Unstable - ALWAYS when you need the login and password for the international conference call you're about to attend in 15 minutes - your email crashes.

Another thing you have to keep clean - Like your house, car, desk, yard and children aren't enough to try to keep clean - you also have to weed through the gazillion emails in your inbox and keep it clean too.

Distracting - How many times have you seen someone become instantly catatonic while you're talking to them because an email has suddenly arrived? How much time at work is wasted verifying that the 20 spam emails you received in the last hour are actually spam?

Oh sure, email has its benefits, we're all familiar with those. But I believe there's still plenty of opportunity for improvement in the whole email process. I'd hate to think this is as good as it's going to get.

Now, time for me to respond to the 25 emails I have waiting in my inbox. Or, maybe I won't. And if I don't - the people who sent them to me will probably just figure that's the way it is.


Suburban Turmoil said...

I love e-mail when it comes to my friends, but I worked in a situation in which everyone e-mailed everything to each other (even though we could've just walked down the hall to talk) and you're right- people were always getting offended because they had read something the wrong way. I had a lot of trouble with that because I was always joking in my e-mails and often, people didn't realize what I'd written was a joke. *sigh* That was in my twenties. I'm smarter now. ;)

yellojkt said...

Dead on about this. It takes about five e-mails to clear up something that one phone call could have.

Mooselet said...

I don't get work related e-mails, but I watch my husband plow through 50 emails before breakfast. 90% are absolute crap - worthless, not his concern, do-I-care - and that's not including spam. His inbox is a scary place.

On the plus side of email, it's a wonderful way to communicate with relatives on the other side of the world without expensive phone calls or long delays in mailing a letter.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Lucinda - That joke thing just happened last week at my office with a co-worker. Emails can be very hard to interpret sometimes.

Mooselet - You're right in that this is more of a business rant than a personal one. I just think email is used too often for the wrong reasons. Like Yellojkt said, I use the phone at work whenever I have to get useful information from somebody, otherwise I can trade emails all day long. I usually give any "conversation" a 2-email limit, then I pick up the phone.

Anonymous said...

I accept the limitations and hassles of email because the pros so outweigh the cons... primary of which is that I don't have to talk to anybody and can answer on my own time. I also like the fact that I have a written record of things. It also neatly allows you to not worry about time-differences. On top of all that, it's cheap and nearly instantaneous.

The #1 reason I hate email is spam. Everything else is a distant, distant, second.

Jenn said...

I stay at home with my kids and couldn't imagine the email traffic in an office.

I like the four page list of CC: that goes with a two sentence email. Makes you feel special and significant.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Dave - I agree with you on all the positive aspects as well, but since this is a rant, by law I could only list the negative things.

Emma S. - Thanks for stopping by! Ahh yes, nothing like group spam to make you feel special indeed!

Anonymous said...

High five!

Ya know though, if you take those scenarios, the same results happen in face-to-face situations...

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! It's not only e-mails that bug me. One day, an IM popped up from my husband asking me if I wanted to go out to eat for supper. I got up from my computer, walked two feet to the door of my office, three more feet to his desk, where he was sitting at his computer, and said yes, I do, I'll get the kids. He said, I already IM'd them, they're getting ready. (They were down the hall in their rooms.) And his pet name for me is "technophobe." Ya think?

Wendy Boucher said...

Thanks for visiting my blog today. You are now my best friend for having complimented my cartoons. I'll have to add you to my email list. Hah.

Love your post. I fear the loss of face-to-face contact in future generations.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Chanakin - I hope you're not referring to the "infected with viruses" part!

Linda - So what's your IM name again? (Don't worry, I won't give it out to anyone)

Wendy - Yes, I like what you're doing. If you look at my toons and doodles (see my sidebar) you'll notice I've tried dabbling in that myself, so I can appreciate what you're doing. Keep it up!!!
p.s. It's always fun to have a new friend!