The Benefits and Pitfalls of Emails

emails

Contrary to what recent literature has highlighted on the benefits of emails,  it has its drawbacks. And at times, increased usage of emails has resulted in damaged relationships among users. While recent literature has highlighted that the increased dependency on emails has caused many of us to be dissociated from one another, this observation is merely superficial and does not look beyond the surface.  This entry thus seeks to investigate the pitfalls of emails and the repercussions that can result from our increased dependency on it.

Before going into the pitfalls, it will be good to have a brief look at the benefits of emails:

  • Increased connectivity:  It can’t be denied that email connects us all. In fact, emails enable us to communicate with our foreign friends from around the globe. This function of emails may well be the primary reason why emails have gained worldwide acceptance by online users.  Geographical locations are no longer a barrier to personal and organisational communications.
  • The “cc” function:  The ability to send messages to several individuals / departments simultaneously is another attractive feature that emails offer. This is especially useful when the recipients are located across various, separate geographical locations.  This is also useful when the senders want to direct their emails to the specific recipient(s) while allowing other parties to be aware of the correspondences. For online users, this is known as “keeping someone in the loop” (“Loop” is a rather interesting term since is a form of 2-way communication, I figure that it’s appropriate).   
  • Attachments:  The ability to attach a document is useful.  The fact that most emails accept documents of various formats such as images and documents also makes emails a very useful correspondence tool among online users, especially the corporate users. The only limitation is that some emails place a limit on the size of the attachments.  However, as capacity/storage of emails increases over the years, this becomes less of a problem as the user merely has to send separate emails to the recipient(s).

The abovementioned factors are often considered to be the determining factor that has caused emails to be a worldwide success.  However, when we explore the limitations and pitfalls of emails below, it is not difficult to see why using emails pales in comparison to face-to-face interaction when it comes to the building of rapport among people:

  •  Spam: In recent years, spam (defined as “unsolicited e-mail, often of a commercial nature, sent indiscriminately to multiple mailing lists, individuals, or newsgroups; junk e-mail.” by thefreedictionary.com) is a prevalent problem among online users.  While there are benefits in reaching online users around the world through the use of emails, spam are making it challenging for online users to sift through the vast amount of emails that they are receiving for the relevant ones.
  • Viruses and other IT-related issues: Viruses and IT-related issues such as worms (Please look at point 8 under “nouns”) and Trojan horses  (Please look at point 3) are causing distress to email users since they affect the computer terminal that they are working on rather than the email system itself. If infected, email users are incapacitated not only in terms of their ability to send emails but their ability to work online as well. 
  • Phishing: The concept of phishing is relatively new but the consequences are devastatingly deadly. Phishing is defined as “an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication (wikipedia.org). Seen in this light, email communication has been exploited by some to be used as bait for fraud. Hence the danger of using emails can be observed.
  • Incorrect email address: Sometimes, emails are sent to an incorrect email address by accident. This will cause inconvenience both to the senders and receivers. While letters are retrievable, emails are sent at a click of a mouse and once they are sent, it’s not retrievable.  
  • Lack of emotional expression:  Emails do not allow users to express themselves emotionally. This is detrimental to building rapport among the communicating parties because misunderstanding might occur.  For example, the sender might put his points directly across to the recipients. However, the recipients might take offence at the words that are used or the way the sentences are structured. In recent years, “smiley” (defined as “an emoticon, especially a smiling facial glyph used to express delight or to indicate humor or irony” by thefreedictionary.com) is used to resolve this issue  but even so, “smiley” has its limitations, most of which can be attributed to the perception by most online /corporate users that they are informal.

Therefore, while it seems that emails are becoming part and parcel of our lives, we should not allow them to trivialise the importance of face-to-face communications.

Ultimately, successful communications are often achieved through spoken words, and not in writing.

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