The Rise and Fall? of Email

Like many, I have a love-hate relationship with my inboxes. Yes, inboxes. In traditional email accounts alone, there’s one for each school, work and personal. Inboxes filled with shopping coupons, credit scores, political campaign donation requests, listserv summaries, urgent requests to resend an email, one-line “thank you’s” and too much more.

In this recent article, Adrienne LaFrance of The Atlantic explores our love-hate relationship with email, and how it has managed to persist for fifty years. Despite the addition of enterprise social networks, and all the cloud platforms you can count, we just can’t quit our email accounts.

According to LaFrance, the average white collar worker checks their email 77 times a day. 77 times. In a 9-5 job this amounts to once every six minutes. The amount of time we spend checking email every day, trying to stay ahead of the flood of incoming messages, discourages employees from engaging in alternate platforms. After all, who wants to add yet another daily digest of alerts and messages to their inbox each morning?

Real time communications, facilitated through platforms such as Slack or Ryver seem to offer the perfect escape from email, maintaining communication with colleagues without clogging up our inboxes. According to LaFrance, “the idea behind Slack is that, when you’re addressing the same core group of people via email all the time anyway, you might as well have a shared digital space so that people can dip in and out of the conversation as needed.” Are real time communication platforms the solution? Or are they just another inbox shrouded as innovation?

Over the past few years many media leaders have posited that real time communications and employee social networks are the way of the future, going so far as to declare that real time communication will overtake business email by the end of 2016. With billions of emails sent and received every day, the idea is alluring. Integrating the fatigue of the daily slog through email with platforms that facilitate collaboration and knowledge management sounds almost too good to be true. Will the zero inbox soon be attainable?

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