A small departure from my usual posts about story ideas. I’m going to talk a little bit about something we all deal with nearly every day: email. Me, I use Yahoo Mail even though I know I should move on. I just find it convenient.
A little history of email…
Only large institutions had access to long-distance communication in the early days of mail.
Powerful groups of people have sought to control the flow of information throughout human history. For a long time, only governments and the Catholic Church had the tools to dispense information on a large scale.
Empires and governments have been using communication as means to consolidate their power since antiquity. In the Persian Empire, for instance, messages could be sent by horse at the speed of 100 miles per day — as early as 600 BC! A new horse had to be switched in along the route at every postal stop.
The Abbasid Caliphate had over 900 postal stops in 860 AD, and Caliph Abu Jalbar Mansur once said in a speech that a faithful postmaster was just as important as the Chief of Police or the Minister of Finance.
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church issued major doctrinal rulings or political decisions by disseminating scrolls all across Europe.
Common people , on the other hand, didn’t have access to long-distance communication until the end of the nineteenth century. In fact, in the year 1500 in Britain, only five to ten percent of the adult population could even read or write.
Sending mail was very costly, too. For just one letter, you needed paper (which was expensive at the time), silk to wrap it in, wax to seal it and access to an official sign. Sending a letter over 400 miles cost about a fifth of the average daily wage as late as 1800.
Things were further complicated by the fact that people didn’t have fixed addresses. An American woman once addressed a letter to her brother by writing, “To my most noble brother, Mr. John Miles Breton, at Ye barber shoppe which lieth in the land hard against ye tavern of Ye Great Square in shadow of Ye Towne Hall.” With addresses like that, it was often hard for letters to end up in the right place!
Communication styles changed as mail services became more democratic and accessible over time.
Postcards quickly took off as a hot new form of communication after the first one was sent in 1871. Not everyone liked the change, however. In fact, The New York Times said the country had been suffering from a postcard-sending ” epidemic ” later that same year!
Letter writing, postcards and mail services became much more accessible to common people in the late 1800s, thanks in large part to education reform and massive literacy campaigns in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. Large governments also started investing more in their postal systems to build them up.
The British Royal Mail, for example , employed 42,000 people and had opened over 12,000 offices by 1873. The US Congress even experimented with using camels to deliver mail from Texas to California.
By that point, mail had gradually started to become a more regular part of people’s lives. In 1840, the average American only sent three letters a year; by 1900, that number had risen to 69.
People used mail for various different purposes, too. Emigrant groups wrote letters to stay in touch with friends and relatives, and some people even started using it for fun. Members of the “Nonsense Correspondence Club”, founded in 1903, sent random items to each other, like leftovers from their dinner parties!
Communication styles also changed as mail became more widely available. In 1871, The New York Times published a complaint about what we now call “flaming” when it happens online: aggressive, violent insults sent out to people anonymously.
There were even early forms of spam! Some unlucky people got tricked into making false investments as early as 1887, when they received letters asking them to claim the estates of supposedly deceased distant relatives.
The telegraph provided the first means of real-time, long-distance conversation.
Letters were becoming much easier to send at the turn of the century, but they still took a long time to get where they were going. Overall, communication was still fairly slow. But the telegraph changed that completely and irrevocably.
The telegraph was an incredibly powerful communication tool — so powerful that it changed the way people perceived space and time. For the first time, people and information in far away places were quickly accessible. Before the transatlantic cable was laid in 1870, it took five weeks to send news from London to New York. With the cable, it only took a matter of hours.
As the world grew smaller and communication became easier, even enemies started making long-distance small talk with each other. Generals in the American Civil War of 1860 sent each other short, provocative messages like, “I see your condition through my telescope” and ” We have intercepted your supplies. Give in like a good fellow. ”
The introduction of the telegraph even brought on the first era of information overload. People now had unprecedented access to news and communication. In fact , the second message sent by Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, was, “Have you any news ?”
William James, the famous philosopher, coined the term Americanitis to describe the perpetual fear of not being on time, and nervousness about missing out on something — all sorts of stress caused by the telegraph.
Newspapers also started printing larger editions as the telegraph granted people more access to news. Soon they were printing every day instead of once a week, covering news from all over the world; but not everyone liked this development. The Michigan newspaper Alpeno Echo even shut down its telegraph service because it felt it was becoming the voice of the world, rather than the record of its community.
Emails are fundamentally different from any prior form of communication.
The telegraph peaked around 1945, when about 240 million telegrams were sent per year. In 2007, the number of emails sent globally hit 35 trillion — a figure more than 10, 000 times higher.
So how did email become so successful and what does it mean for us?
Email has made communication much easier and faster than ever before. Not only is it instantaneous, it also costs virtually nothing!
Before email, people had to write addresses (or descriptions of a location! ) On paper or envelopes and send them out individually. Now, we can send messages to people, or even large groups of individuals, with only one click. You may forward a message or discuss a bit of news without considering it whatsoever.
Email can also be free. Anyone using a computer or telephone and access to the net can use it everywhere, from any place. Telegrams, on the other hand, used to cost quite a lot. In 1860, it cost the equivalent of $18 in the cash to send a message from New York to London.
Communication is getting far more effective — but it may really be too effective.
Now that it is really easy to send and receive messages, we are often expected to answer instantly. Online messages always disrupt daily. In reality, a single 2006 study discovered that the typical American employee was interrupted 11 times a day, leading to an overall reduction of $600 billion.
Another threat of constant email access is that it may make a never-ending to-do record for you. As soon as you are able to get new jobs or advice at any moment, your friends, family or supervisor may expect you to be accessible constantly, always prepared to change your aims.
It goes without saying that email is effective . However, it makes a great deal of anxiety for us also.
Emailing is highly addictive and changes the chemistry of your brain.
Email is an electronic form of communication, but it still creates problems from the physical universe. Actually, email functions much like a medication. Email is addictive and causes behavioral issues just as with any other addiction.
If you receive a favorable email, you are feeling a sense of recognition and validation. This, then, compels you to continue checking your inbox over and over so that you may find that feeling repeatedly. The consequent dependence is strong: in 1 questionnaire designed to measure email reaction period, the normal time was just 104 minutes. Seventy percent of the participants reacted in only seven minutes.
Email withdrawal may lead to anxiety and distress, also. In 2007, one property agent even said that his “blood ran cold” if the Blackberry system went down for a couple hours.
Our brains just aren’t meant for the new challenges posed by email. Brain imaging has shown that repetitive behaviour, like compulsive email-checking, causes imbalances in serotonin levels. Your dopamine raises if you check your email, which means you begin to crave it.
Compulsive email-checking also includes a negative impact on your memory. When you attempt to perform too many jobs simultaneously, your mind’s attention is directed away from the hippocampus, which is responsible for saving information. It focuses rather on your striatum, which copes with repetitive jobs. That is the reason it’s more difficult to remember what you’re doing if you’re multitasking.
Emails also send very little info to our prefrontal cortex, the portion of the brain responsible for empathizing with other people and addressing them at a suitable tone. Consequently, they can bring in a great deal of misunderstanding. The prefrontal cortex is very vulnerable and impressionable through adolescence, so young men and women who create email habits may also create permanent issues with communication.
Email interrupts our regular lives.
Our email customs have a significant effect on our emotions and regular behaviour. They even change how we socialize with our own families, friends and kids!
Why? Because email is a significant disruption in our everyday lives. The rate , anonymity and frequency of email can leave you feeling tired at the end of the day. Additionally, emails are depersonalized, draining and may diminish your sense of achievement. According to psychologist Christina Maslach, these are the indicators of burnout.
We are also reading fewer books nowadays due to email, and also our eye movements have shifted; we are now likely to skimming rather than reading. In reality , the proportion of adults scoring “proficient” on prose reading scores dropped substantially between 1992 and 2003.
Email has an effect on the sleep patterns too. Various studies have demonstrated that individuals are currently sleeping less than they did 20 decades back, mainly due to our need to always be linked.
Our social lives and relationships also have suffered in today’s era. Madonna even confessed in 2008 that she and Guy Ritchie slept using their telephones beneath their pillows, so that they could catch them whenever they desired. ” It is not unromantic, ” she stated, ” it is sensible. ” The set is currently blessed.
In addition, you spend less time with your loved ones if you are ever looking in your telephone or pc. Bruce Mehlman, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy under George W. Bush, even promised he can play along with his son when checking his email.
He constantly needed to create bad trade-offs, nevertheless. He once ruined his son Lego figure at a drama fight so that he can reply an email, leaving his son to reconstruct the figure by himself.
The tyranny of email could be overcome.
We have seen that email is extremely addictive and changes our brains. Nevertheless, it is still possible for individuals to conquer this tyranny. Let us discuss some strategies for controlling your email so that it will not wind up controlling you.
First off, you have to remain in control of if you are really using email. Consider checking your email just a fixed variety of times every day, or just using it during work hours. Determine what quantity of email is necessary and healthy, and cut out any extra usage of it. This manner, you prevent unnecessary interruptions and may respond to a very long email thread without needing to look at each and every message as it arrives.
You make things worse should you check your email just after you wake up or just before going to sleep — it implies you are subjecting your disposition to other people’s messages at crucial points on your day. Thus, aim to have a couple of email-free hours on each end. We also should alter the way we compose our mails. Offer your email a efficient subject line which outlines the main components, and make sure you keep your emails brief and just write information that is absolutely vital. After that, encourage other people to do the same. Tell them you do not always require a “Thank you message” and keep your inbox free from any messages which are not helpful.
Strive to locate a balance between other and email, offline resources for preparation and communicating. Telephone calls and meetings are far better than email if you are talking something sensitive. Group discussions must be held in individual, as category emails may get infinite and disorienting.
Try rearranging your desk, also . Desks are often organized around computers, but be sure to still have sufficient room to write on paper and make telephone calls easily. Do not cut pens and paper from your life!
No additional kind of communication has influenced our own lives as deeply as email. It provides free, immediate access to communication from anywhere with internet access. Though its advantages are manifold, email has its drawbacks too. It is addictive, hampers our attention span, causes us anxiety and is altering the character of our relationships in some negative ways. Email is strong, so be certain to restrain it — or else it can control you.
Utilize your voice if you want to go over something lengthy and complex.
Nuances could be dropped in mails, creating accidental confusion or ill feelings. Should you have to go over something important, it is ideal to get it done in person. If this is not an alternative, make a telephone call — differently, emails may actually be counter.
Some Practical Advice to Tame Your Email Inbox
Get a head start when you’ve got a free moment.
Rather than assessing Facebook for a while when waiting in line or sitting in a taxi, take a couple of minutes to lighten your email loading. You may begin with knocking out mails which you may tell from the topic line will not take very long to read and react to. This can make it simpler when you really do sit down to respond to mails.
Put aside a particular time to reply emails.
As other jobs can appear more urgent, we frequently kick the email can down the street and leave it for later. The outcome is that unread messages may stack up, and the only way to catch up would be to put aside a committed time whenever you’re focused entirely on whittling down your inbox.
Require 15 minutes once you complete lunch every day or set aside 1 day per week a “work night” to concentrate on email.
Decide quickly if you have to respond.
One very simple way to lessen the time spent on email would be not to allow futile emails linger. Immediate archive emails in the event the sender, topic, and launching paragraph indicate the email isn’t one worth studying.
Another tip would be to instantly sort new mails into one of 3 classes: Response now, rename and then delete, and Star for afterwards. This permits you to keep things going while conserving e-mails that require a more response to get a more suitable moment.
In case an email needs only a brief reply, take action instantly and get it out of the way.
If you do respond, keep things short and sweet.
Save time by getting to the purpose of your reply as fast as possible.
Replying to a protracted email with a few sentences or even only a couple of words isn’t rude. If you’re able to effectively communicate your reply in only a couple of words there’s simply no reason to add fluff. Do not even say ‘ Hello, so ‘. A simple ‘no’ will suffice and will earn you a great deal of respect.
You could also cause canned answers to frequently asked questions when potential and ditching unnecessary answers such as “Cool. ” and “Thanks. ”
Do not get caught up on email offers and newsletters.
Instead of needing to operate around recurring email offers from retailers or upgrades from providers such as Facebook, set up junk mail filters which will automatically divert them away from the inbox. In this manner, they are not on your manner, but could still return and examine them anytime.
You’ll be able to register for a free service such as unroll. me to easily unsubscribe from burst emails you are not interested in getting anymore.
Give yourself an email break once you move on holiday.
Among the greatest areas of taking a holiday is getting the chance to unplug for a little. On the downside, doing this generally implies you return to a mountain of unread mails once you return.
Leave your out-of-office response set up throughout your first day back on the job. The magic is in adding a single additional day to it so that you officially have a catch-up afternoon to receive your feet back under you when you go back.
Do not increase the clutter by sending unnecessary emails of your own.
A surefire method to fill up your inbox would be to ask an individual an open-ended query which will lead you in back-and-forth market that performs over a couple of days and heaps of mails.
Rather, do not be afraid to give someone a telephone call, or, if they operate on your workplace, simply walk on to them and also have a dialogue. In this manner, you receive the info that you need in a timely manner and prevent a game of e-mail.