HELLO? (with no apologies to Adele)

The telephone is dead.

Not so much the cell/smartphone, since our fingers twitch to text and tweet and reply-all email.

But the Alexander Graham Bell invention is moribund (especially according to statistics from Nielsen, claiming that we’re moving to a landline-less and voicemail-less society).

All of which we mourn.  To us, it signals an increasingly isolated population, at home and at work.  [Though for the life of us, we can’t figure out who’s talking to whom in our commutes.] 

It shows our determined individualism:  “Hey, we’re communicating on our own terms and in our own timeframe.”

And it points to an ever-decreasing competency in being willing to talk and understanding how to hold a conversation.

According to Miss Manners, phone calls are rude, disruptive, and awkward.  They interrupt our workflow, our home lives, and generally create havoc for those around us.  In fact, it’s become de rigueur to ask, in an email, if it’s okay to call.

Much of that could be due to the constant ‘dialing for dollars’ from robocalls or from groups we’d just as soon not hear from.  And much of that could be a lack of energy to speak with those who want to talk with us; after all, it takes a lot of energy to text and message and scroll through Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram and Pinterest and other social media.

Some say back-and-forth messaging is simply the new century’s conversation. 

We’d hang up on that.


There’s much chatter these days about doing away with email clutter (more on that in the next installment).

Company after company proclaims weekly moratoria on inbox traffic, seeks solutions like Slack and Yammer, even banishes the e-letter outright.

Somehow, the bane of billions @ work re-appears. 

Those of us who complain about e-overload need look no further than right outside the United States, where Internet access (and email) is prized.  India, with only 15 percent of its population connected, plans to hook everyone into fiber-optic cable by 2019.  Indonesia is only one percentage point better.  Even China, with its massive population, has only linked 46 percent to the Internet.

What’s more, it often takes about 15 or more minutes to actually receive the missive, even in New Delhi, the heart of the Indian government.

In contrast, simply remember our e-luck (and connectivity).  Besides, as a nation that expects immediate gratification, the delivery of email here waits for nothing, except an offline or damaged server or viruses or … .

Our solution to the clutter:  A long-time newspaper columnist designated August 7 as National Write That Note Day.  No excuses.  No delays.  As she points out, Paper Source stores are alive and well and expanding.  So someone must be writing.

What’s perfect for pen and paper, despite the ‘snail mail’ designation?   Condolences.  Congratulations.  Catching up with old friends.  The holiday family letter. 

It’s doing the right thing, no matter what you say.


We’ve resisted adding our two-cents’ worth for quite some time.

After all, the debate started in the early 1990s, when email became a way of life.  That’s a long time to rage.

Today, opinionators and etiquette mavens, corporate security-types and bloggers, technologists and journalists offer solutions, ranging from more software (argh!) that will underwhelm the overload to Friday bans.  Here’s a sampling:

  • Strive for Inbox Zero.  [Then, what else will we have time for?]
  • Buy smart mail filters.  [On top of what we’re already charged for service?]
  • Set a time limit.  [Alarm clocks aren’t a good idea – they’re scary.]
  • Don’t sign up for junk.  [Your comment here … ]
  • Prioritize.  [If we could do that …]

Look at the suggestions:  They’re all driven by behaviors, good and not-so-good.  Much of which, in our worldview, is caused by some pretty common emotions:

  • ‘Suppose I overlook a critical time-sensitive message from my boss … and then fail on an assignment?’ [Fear]
  • ‘I’ll miss something important.’  [Uncertainty.]
  • ‘I don’t think I can manage without checking email.’ [Doubt]

Even with many unspoken concerns about managing email, the FUDs (fear-uncertainty-doubt) in many lives tend to dominate.  With 28 percent of our time spent writing, reading, and answering email (McKinsey), with 13 hours each week devoted to our beloved monster, and with double-digit email growth expected for the near term (Radicati Group), it’s time for a change.  Of the individual kind.

Anyone for establishing Emailers Anonymous?