There are two types of people in this world. Those who live at inbox zero, who frantically read, remove, and reply to emails the very instant they arrive.
And, then there’s the rest of us: Those who live with thousands of unopened emails without a care in the world. I am one such individual—a millennial who checks my personal email once or twice a week, and my work email as few times as I can get away with.
To me, sending an email is the 2018 equivalent to sending snail mail. It’s insufferably slow, you can’t see if the recipient is online, and it’s hard to scroll back through previous messages.
But, I’m not the only millennial who feels that email is the lowest rung on the ladder of communication. I spoke with young entrepreneurs who are ditching email entirely in favour of quicker and more efficient methods of communication.
Harriet Butterfield, PR and social client manager at social agency The Honey Partnership, says that email doesn’t marry well with the millennial startup mentality because it’s “slow and passive.”
“I think millennials, especially those that work in agencies like mine or in a startup environment, have an entrepreneurial outlook on life,” says Butterfield. “And, with that comes the classic ‘move fast and break everything’ attitude that Mark Zuckerberg coined, and ultimately, a get-shit-done and get-it-done-quickly way of working.”
“Email is the last resort, and only a way to send official documents.”
Butterfield says email “prohibits” this kind of behaviour. “It’s slow and passive, instead of quick and proactive.” She finds that getting approvals for things takes three times longer when done via email because people put off replying until later. “If it’s on an instant messaging platform like Slack or WeChat you see it, you decide on it, and you respond, in real-time,” she says.
She says that at her agency, it’s even written in the handbook that “email is the last resort, and only a way to send official documents.” When it comes to communicating with external clients, staff use WeChat, Skype messenger, or Slack.
This mentality has filtered its way into Butterfield’s personal life, too. “For personal use, email is completely redundant.” She says her personal inbox is “chock-a-block with spam” save for the odd three-year-old email from her parents, who now know to just catch her on WhatsApp.
Aleksei Antonov—CFO of SONM, a decentralised fog computing platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain—says tech start-ups far prefer faster methods of messaging over old-school email. “High-tech companies, especially startups, ditch emails in favour of modern means of communication like messengers and even task managers like Jira and Asana,” says Antonov.
Antonov explained why email is becoming obsolete in his place of work. “Emails do not let you to set a task properly and to see all your tasks at a glance,” he says.
“Emails come from everyone and all the time,” he says, adding that messengers like Slack or Telegram are far superior when it comes to facilitating “super fast information exchange” and “a quick discussion of an important issue.”
Jordan Anthony Swain, an artist and entrepreneur, says that over the past two years he’s tried to curtail a lot of his email use, and tries to get most of his work done off-email. Time is of the essence for Swain, and he feels that email is a huge drain on his limited time.
“I feel like email is becoming obsolete.”
“I remember being so exhausted in one of my startups, spending four hours daily on email,” he said.
Swain has pretty much replaced email through his use of Asana, which he feels has minimised “a lot of the back and forth email threads regarding work flow and projects.” He loves WhatsApp’s ability to send large files, voice notes, and multimedia through an encrypted platform, and he uses Facebook for banking and messaging. “I also do a lot of my communicating, business development, and marketing through social media like Instagram, Skype and Google Hangouts,” adds Swain.
He believes email is “on its way out” for millennials and subsequent generations. “I feel like email is becoming obsolete,” says Swain. He says that for many young entrepreneurs, “time is the ultimate luxury,” which is why they prefer faster communication methods. “Simplicity is key to millennials, and anything that feels like a job added onto our already jam-packed schedules will be left behind,” says Swain.
Stephanie Dunleavy, who works at Soul Analyse—a “self-love eHub”—says she’s slowed down her use of email over the past two years because she feels email has become “irrelevant in many senses.”
Dunleavy only checks her email once a day and she often finds herself hitting “delete” over and over again. She prefers to use Pushfor, a business tool that allows you to engage with colleagues in real-time using chat, voice, or video.
“With Pushfor, I know that anything I receive is from someone I know and it’s either important or useful, whereas many of emails I receive are either marketing promotion or sales pitches,” she says.
When it comes to time spent, research suggests that people are indeed cutting down on the number of hours they spend on email. According to the 2017 Adobe Email Consumer Survey, the overall number of hours people spent on email went down by 27 percent from 2016. Those declines were seen on both personal and work accounts, too. Adobe’s report puts this down to people “striking a new life-email balance,” suggesting that people might be reclaiming their email time for other, more productive uses of time.
Despite this, Adobe’s research also found that despite the “hype around newer forms of communication like Slack and Snapchat,” young consumers don’t seem to be migrating away from email. ” Surprisingly, it turns out email is just as sticky with them as it is with consumers overall,” reads the Adobe report.
Monica Karpinski—founder and editor of The Femedic—is not just attached to her email, she uses it to organise her entire life. With four inboxes for different projects, she uses her email to take notes in meetings which she then sends to herself, and she uses email to send herself articles she wants to read later on. “Basically without my inbox, I have no clue what I’m doing that day, or where I’m at for certain projects,” says Karpinski. “It’s just a really easy way to keep track of your life.”
While email might not be the primary form of communication for many young professionals, they do still use it as an archive or record for important legal documents and contracts. And, until a viable replacement comes along, email will likely rule the roost in that area. Nevertheless, in a world where time=money, cutting down on time spent emailing isn’t a bad idea. These young entrepreneurs might well be onto something.