E-Mail Regret

Have you ever noticed that immediately after you hit the send button on an e-mail, you start second guessing yourself? ‘Oh crap, did I remember to spell check that? I didn’t just hit forward to all, did I? Why did I use so many exclamation points?’

That very moment of uncertainty and hesitation represents the good and bad side of e-mails.


On the one hand, they instantly transfer information across cities, states and nations. You can send messages to friends across town, relatives across the country, or your boss on the top floor of your office building.

On the other hand, they instantly transfer information across cities, states and nations.

There is no undo button in cyberspace. Anything that’s in that e-mail when you click that ever-so-inviting send button is there forever. No chance to change it. Your fate is sealed.

Maybe that should tell us something. In a recent Wired article, Clive Thompson details the positive aspects of programs that monitor e-mail activity for you. Such programs like Xabni and ClearContext identify and sort your e-mail messages, making life easier for you.

And although that doesn’t directly address our conundrum, he comes to a suggestion that we can, and probably should, heed:

He encourages people to e-mail less.

According to Thompson’s article, there are 77 billion corporate e-mail messages sent each day around the world. Add that to all the spam we receive, as well as the spam we don’t receive, thanks to good (but not great) spam blocking technology, and factor in e-mails with family and friends as well as e-mails from retailers, newswires and entertainment venues, and it’s easy to see why Thompson makes this suggestion.

The thing is, people likely won’t follow it.

So, assuming we must continue this absurd amount of e-mailing, what can we do to make the e-mail world a better place for all of humanity? What are some rules or guidelines we should follow when sending out messages? And what kind of programs should be developed next to streamline and ease e-mail use in general?

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