CHICAGO -- Anyone who has
e-mail probably experiences it. You go away for a few days -- in some
cases, even a few hours -- and boom! Your e-mailbox is crammed full.
John Parker's heart sank last week when he returned from a two-week
vacation to find well over 250 e-mails awaiting him.
So he did what many increasingly overwhelmed e-mail users are doing.
''I'm afraid I just basically moved them all into the trash basket,''
said the Washington bureau chief for the British magazine The Economist.
As far as Parker is concerned, you can opt to spend all day doing
e-mail or you can do your work: ''But you can't do both.''
Technology may make it easier for others to reach us. And it may
increase our penchant to communicate. But e-mail inundation is becoming
so common that some people are drawing the line.
''The speed of technology is driving me insane!'' says Maria Salomao,
a public relations executive from San Francisco and one of dozens
of people to reply to an online query about the ever-increasing
volume of e-mail and voice mail.
Salomao and several others said that in recent months they've begun
replying to fewer e-mails and are getting fewer responses to messages
that they've sent.
In Australia -- a country that has made big efforts to get its
citizens connected to the Web -- tax officials have been so swamped
by e-mail questions they've had to send auto-responses telling e-mailers
they'll have to wait at least two weeks.
Even experts -- including Eric Yaverbaum, author of I'll Get Back
To You -- are proving hard to reach.
''I've become the guy I used to curse at, and I feel bad,'' says
Yaverbaum, who gets about 100 voice mails and e-mails daily. ''But
what can you do?''
So who's sending all this stuff anyway?
Some of the e-mail jamming our boxes is, of course, unsolicited
Jupiter Communications, which tracks this sort of thing, projects
that marketing-related e-mail messages will increase 40-fold between
1999 and 2006. It says the average online user received 1,746 e-mails
in 1999 and will receive 2,052 this year.
Then there are people like Sreenath Sreenivasan, a professor of
new media at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism,
who sends so much e-mail -- 250 a day -- that his friends have come
up with a name for it: ''sree-mail.''
Some of it is school-related; some goes to people on group lists
he has created, including one dedicated to news from Asia.
''Pity the fools,'' Sreenivasan jokes of those who actually sign
up for his lists.
Much of the mail he sends requires no reply. But even when he expects
a response, he says it's a good idea to be patient.