Email: “The Reports of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated”
Email here, writing to correct a public misperception.
To quote Mark Twain, The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. (Sam Clemens, of course, did not have Email to respond to those rumors, so he had to use the social media of the time, such as letters to the editors of daily newspapers.)
Now I admit that I’m not the youthful shining star I once was. I’ve outsourced certain parts of my job to Facebook, Twitter, Trello, and half a dozen other kids so new on the block no one has heard of them yet. But the interesting parts of the job I’ve kept for myself, or shared with my young sibling.
(I’ll get to the nepotism thing in a minute.)
Now you may find it odd that I’m not using my own self in my defense, sending Email to everyone. But information blasts were never my strength. Sending information into the great unknown, to be read by whomever finds it of interest, has always been a painful job. I know I was cluttering up inboxes, gathering electronic dust bunnies, wasting bandwidth in repeating myself repeating myself repeating myself. Good on ya, Facebook and Twitter and blogs and RSS for picking up this low-value work, leaving me free to do more important things.
Need to share an idea with your boss? No way you’ll put that on Facebook. Likewise exchanges with your employees. Want to reach out to a business partner? Even if you use LinkedIn to reach a prospective partner, the next step will require my help. Oh, you can use the phone, but that requires everyone to be in the same place at the same time. That’s great for live give-and-take, but so many conversations benefit, as Mr. Twain knew, from even the slightest bit of reflection between messages.
I’ve got a strong back, too. Not only can I carry the message without faltering, and with guaranteed delivery (though I can’t guarantee the recipient will actually read it!), I can carry additional stuff too. Photos. Documents. Web links. Pretty much anything you can think of that can be built via electrons, I can carry. I’m not so good with physical packages, but then neither is Facebook or Twitter.
I’m not limited to a single computer, either. I’ve know this guy Steve who reads Email on his phone and multiple computers — and it’s all the same Email. Delete it on his phone, and it’s gone from his computers. Reply to a message on one computer, and it’s in the sent-mail on his other one.1 He can even check his email on someone else’s computer, though he’s smart enough to be super-cautious about password stealing and keystroke logging when he needs to do this.
Now about my sibling.
I’ve got this younger brother named SMS, which is a silly name, so people use his nickname Texting. Some folk think we’re at odds, but we’re like any sibs — we may bicker and play games on each other, but we know we’re family, and family matters. There’s really little difference between us other than our size; he’s the runt of the litter, though he hates it when I put it that way. As he gets older, the family resemblance becomes clearer. In fact, my clients can send texts to phones; this Steve guy does it all the time because his teenage daughter is mildly allergic to me. (It’s the kind of allergy that will fade over time, as her messages become both more complex and more business-oriented.)
Anyway, I’m still here because I have a critical role to play in business as well as in private life. I do it very well, if I say so myself.
Could I lose my job someday, outsourced to some shiny new technology? Never say never; after all, snail mail thought it would live forever. Mark Twain passed too — came in with Halley’s comet and went out with it too, as he liked to say. But Mr. Sam is still with us, both in his writings and in thousands of literary descendants.
Come to think of it, I pretty much came in with Halley’s too.2 It’s silly to predict what the world will look like in 2061, but don’t bet against me hanging around in some modified form until Halley’s next comes to call.