The other day someone on a committee on which I serve suggested we might eliminate the problem of buried emails by using Slack to communicate. The problem, it seems to me, is that we have too many ways to communicate and yet lack the means to do so well. For me email is indicative of the problem. Email was devised—and I remember its beginnings well—as a means of swift communication. The only real options before that were writing an actual letter (which I miss) or telephoning. At that time you might have a cordless phone that you could carry from one room to another but you probably did not. The phone was relegated to a place on a wall or table and, although I appreciate knowing things quickly, the fact is we got along in those days. Junk mail was evident at a glance. You sorted it and life went on.
Now email has taken over life. I simply can’t keep up with it. Some time ago Google offered a trifurcated email experience: primary, social, and promotional. Their algorithms aren’t perfect (numbers seldom are) but I can often ignore large swaths of the promotional page. That saves time. Most of the social is dominated by people I don’t know wanting to connect on LinkedIn, or someone mentioning something I should pay attention to on Facebook. Or perhaps something going on in the neighborhood on Nextdoor. Primary deserves its name, but I can’t keep up with even that. You see, I have a full-time job. It largely consists of reading emails. If I get a personal email in the morning, chances are it will be buried on the second page by the time the day’s out. It may never been seen again. I don’t need another new way to communicate.
The pandemic has introduced the new malady of Zoom exhaustion. It isn’t unusual for my entire weekend to be taken up with Zoom. If I don’t have a good part of a Saturday to sort my emails into files things I promised I’d do begin to slip. I don’t see that email—the one that serves as a reminder to this addled brain of mine. If I order something on Amazon I have to follow up on an email asking me to rate the service. And then, if it’s not sold directly by Amazon, a vendor fishing for a compliment. That after getting an email to confirm my order and another to tell me it’s been shipped. No, please don’t subject me to Slack. Or better yet, send me an email about it. I’ll get to it eventually, as long as it stays on the first page.