Why I hate e-mail


May 24, 2024

“Trust him not with your secrets, who, when left alone in your room, turns over your papers.” – Johann Kaspar Lavater

Medieval Express Mail

Accurate image of e-mail courtesty of Stuart Rankin

I think e-mail is basically garbage and should be used as sparingly as possible and only for the things it’s really good at: receipts, tracking, pushing announcements, and sharing links/access to higher bandwidth means of communication.

It’s bad at facilitating communication. E-mail is more time-expensive than an actual conversation with only a fraction of the communicative bandwidth. It offers zero opportunity for real time ambiguity resolution. It is less efficient than a forum (such as discord or slack), and just generally terrible at almost all of the purposes it’s normally put to.

Worse, it’s unhealthy. No one should have a world-writeable todo list. The people who expect you to read and attend to every one of their messages immediately are also, too often, the same people who want to forward you every bit of litter that falls into their inbox or send you constant, unnecessary updates, newsletters, check-ins, and ‘friendly’ reminders1. E-mail is terrible. But e-mail is also personal; it belongs to its user.

Unfortunately, also, capitalism. Even at the University where I work, which should be above such things, aspiring fascist administrators and their toady IT staff routinely modify, scan, delete, and monitor users’ e-mail. It is used as a tool of control. Just last year, my University reached into our inboxes and deleted a message from our Union coordinating some activism. You can’t trust e-mail for personal communication, it is an instrument of your oppression, and it’s usually the worst tool for collaborative woirk.

Can we please stop using an outmoded collaboration tool that amounts to sifting through a public litterbox multiple times per day to see if maybe one of the neighborhood cats dropped anything we might want in there?


  1. there is no such thing as a friendly reminder↩︎