So, email has been around for more than 50 years. At the time of its invention, it was considered a major part of the disruptive computer revolution. I don’t think anyone would argue its benefits for communication speed, then or now.
If English is the “Lingua Franca” of western business (BELF), then email is the both the medium and the message. That’s just where we’re at.
There are some folks who hold fast to the idea that “kids today don’t use email” or that “email is for old people”.
That may be true someday, but that day is not today.
Email has become a ‘least common denominator’ in communications technology. It works everywhere, across languages and across networks— even intermittently broken and unreliable networks.
Email is asynchronous and fault-tolerant. There can be a lag, even significant, between transmission and reception. Messages can come out of order and be resequenced by date. Messages can even be lost because a message reply often includes the entire thread of conversation. Email is bulky and messy but readily decipherable.
Other communication technologies exist that are faster and more immersive. Other technologies replicate conversation, or at least try to. Real-time chat systems abound and they are fantastic. But their synchronous nature demands network reliability. They demand standards. Which is why real-time chat has SMS text messaging as its ‘lowest common denominator’. But text messaging can’t be and isn’t a medium for business. It isn’t transactional enough. It isn’t long-form enough.
So if we want to guarantee business communication within the enterprise, between businesses and with customers, the only choice to make, today, is email.
So what if kids today don’t use email?
The adults they will become most certainly will.
Email is also Identity.
I remember one of my earliest email accounts used a hacker alias I went by back then. Pretty embarrassing now. I’m pretty sure others have even more blush-worthy accounts. It’s the contact info you put on a resume and nearly every piece of electronic document of note.
Your email is your signature. Your social media presence is your resume, but that’s fodder for another post.
For most services, your email is your account name and username. It’s the first half, the public half, of your credential set. It’s something you protect and wield with intention. It is proof of life in digital commerce.
Conversation may happen in other media. In fact, it should. Collaboration and discourse are way better in Teams, Slack, Messenger or Discord. Develop and refine ideas in chat. Make things better. Iterate and version your collective brain droppings there.
But the communication of decisions, transactional information and obligations? Use email for that. Email is for accountable things.
“I don’t read email” will not pass muster in the real world.
I’ll lay out the case for not checking your email as often and how it presents an affect of busyness without producing any value. Email is the enemy of deep meaningful work.
Being good at email is not a high-value job skill.