The Pros and Cons of Email
Even though email only became commonplace in homes and offices relatively recently in the 1990s, it is difficult for most of us to remember life without it – especially with regard to the workplace, where reading, writing and responding to emails now takes up large proportions of many people’s daily lives.
Although email has transformed communication in some very useful ways, not all the changes that email has brought are positive.
I list the main advantages and disadvantages of email, when compared to snail mail and other forms of communication, in this pros and cons of email.
Email, instant messaging, and cell phones give us fabulous communication ability, but because we live and work in our own little worlds, that communication is totally disorganized.— Marilyn vos Savant
E-mail, when it became mobile - what happened? Utilization of email went through the roof. Just pure Internet access and data - what happens when you mobilize it? Multiples. People are dependent upon broadband and as you mobilize it, they become even more dependent on broadband.— Randall L. Stephenson
Pros of Email
- Email is essentially free, assuming that you are paying for an internet connection anyway, you can send and receive as many emails as you like without incurring any extra charges.
- It is fast. Emails can arrive almost instantaneously, unlike traditional (posted) mail which can take days, or even weeks if it’s long distance.
- It is accessible. As well as computers and laptops, you can now send and receive emails using handheld devices such as mobile phones too.
- You can attach photographs, documents and other media to emails. For instance, you can take a photo with a digital camera and email the photos to the recipient pretty much immediately.
- Emails are great for sending information to multiple people or organizations. It is often no more effort to send an email to a thousand people, as it is to one person.
- You are not limited by distance. The internet is global, so you can send emails anywhere that you want and it doesn’t cost you any extra money, or take the information any longer to arrive, than it would if you were only sending it a few miles.
- Sending information by email is more environmentally friendly than sending a letter by snail mail (if you discount the fact that computers aren’t particularly eco-friendly).
Did You Know?
- More than 3.5 million emails are sent per second.
- Over 294 billion emails are sent and received daily.
- An excess of 100 trillion emails are sent annually.
- Emails are relatively easy to organize. You can create separate folders for different sorts of email, organize them by date, sender, etc. You can also access all your emails wherever you are, provided you have a device such as a laptop or mobile phone and internet access – so an online email account is like have an entire filing cabinet of letters and information at your disposal.
- You can tell what an email is about by reading the subject line, rather than having to read through it all, which can be very useful when prioritizing your workload.
- Once you are set up, it is generally much easier and less effort to write an email and send it, than writing and posting a traditional snail mail letter.
One look at an email can rob you of 15 minutes of focus. One call on your cell phone, one tweet, one instant message can destroy your schedule, forcing you to move meetings, or blow off really important things, like love, and friendship.— Jacqueline Leo
Email is familiar. It's comfortable. It's easy to use. But it might just be the biggest killer of time and productivity in the office today.— Ryan Holmes
Cons of Email
- Emails are much less personal than most other forms of communication.
- It is easier for misunderstandings to occur with email, than with other forms of communication. For instance, it may not be clear when a joke is being made and when someone is being serious, something that can be easily conveyed in person or over the phone through tone of voice etc.
- Emails are impossible to take back once sent, so an email sent in the heat of the moment can cause people problems, especially in the workplace.
- Emails can be sent anonymously, which means that they are sometimes used maliciously to bully or upset people.
- It is relatively easy to make mistakes with email by clicking a wrong button. For instance, you can send a personal email to multiple people rather than just an individual, or you can send an email to the wrong person by not realizing that you’ve clicked the wrong name in an address list.
Did You Know?
The first person to send an email message was an American programmer called Ray Tomlinson. Although he can't remember what he said in the message, he believes it was probably either "testing 123" or "QWERTYUIOP", which are the top row of letters on a keyboard.
- Because emails are so easy to send, people who have to respond to emails can often have problems with information overload, especially in the workplace.
- Although the situation has recently improved, there are still major problems with spam or unsolicited advertising arriving via email. This takes up time and energy to control and can be overwhelming if it gets out of control.
- Email is one of the commonest ways for viruses to travel and infect computers.
- As mentioned in the introduction, reading, writing and responding to emails can take up vast amounts of a modern workers’ time and energy – this work can be dull and passive and sometimes there can appear to be few obvious tangible benefits resulting from it.
For example, I was discussing the use of email and how impersonal it can be, how people will now email someone across the room rather than go and talk to them. But I don't think this is laziness, I think it is a conscious decision people are making to save time.— Margaret J. Wheatley