Is Email Evil? – The Atlantic

“That, to me, was a totally eureka moment,” Johnson said. “Where Gloria Mark says it feels good to send email, but it feels bad to receive. That has changed my behavior. I have been more thoughtful about how I send email: Why am I sending this email? Is this the most direct way to deal with whatever I am trying to deal with?”

“I am also really bad at managing my own email,” Johnson added. “I am abysmal. I have 12,069 unreads in my gmail right now. People look at that and they get panic attacks on my behalf.”

Several studies have found email hurts productivity and makes people feel bad. “I just think we have to rethink email, and even redesign the way email is used,” Mark said in Codebreaker’s first episode.

She’s not alone in that assessment. But what would a reboot of this nature even look like? And what would it mean for email’s cultural standing? (These are some of the questions I’m exploring for an upcoming story, and it’s clear already that they have fascinating, if incomplete, answers.)

Already there are alternatives, or at least complements, to the inbox-outbox cycle: Various private messengers and chat platforms like Slack have been described as email slayers, or at least means of chipping away at its hold on people. Teenagers barely email one another. Just 6 percent of them reported sending daily emails in a 2011 Pew survey. (A time when, it should be noted, Snapchat was in it infancy and platforms like YikYak and Vine didn’t even exist yet.)

“Email is not evil,” said Sabri Ben-Achour, a reporter for Marketplace, in the Codebreaker debut. “We are evil. Email dismantles the barriers and the filters that we have erected to contain our evil selves.”

Even if email’s not outright evil, it does seem to be broken in some way. And if we’re the ones who broke it, it will be up to us to fix it, too.

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