Identifying and Avoiding the Dark Side of Email

Email is a modern technology so embedded in our lives and culture that we think very little of the tremendous psychological impact it has on us.

There are over 2.6 billion emails users worldwide, spending on average more than one full hour per day checking email. However, despite its widespread use and popularity as a communication tool, for some individuals it can be a major source of anxiety and lost productivity.

While the volume of email continues to rise, many of us are blind to the impact it is having on our daily lives: added stress, interruptions, and yes, even a decrease in productivity. Emails are affecting our emotional and psychological health in significant, but perhaps unseen, ways.

Let’s take a look at the dark side of email technology and then explore some ways that we can make our way back towards the light.

1. Email Increases Stress

Findings from a recent research study in the business sector show that employees were more prone to increased stress during information gathering (reading emails) and sharing activities (sending emails). In fact, the research showed that just looking through one’s inbox can significantly increase stress levels, causing corresponding increases in blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels. Repeated long-term exposure to cortisol in the brain can lead to  nerve damage in the frontal lobe resulting in short-term memory loss.

Stress also comes from perceived email pressure, such as feeling pressure from co-workers or clients to check email outside of normal working hours. Pressure can also come from family members or friends to stop checking emails in a social setting or at home. User’s of email who left their email on all day to receive push emails also felt increased pressure versus those who turn on the email program only to read and write emails and then turn it off again.

While email pressure is subjective in nature and is dependent on an individual’s perspective towards using email, it does play a large role in ramping up the stress associated with email for most people.

Plus, there is no norm with email communication as to how long is too long before you respond to someone. It is easy to determine how long a silence should last in a phone conversation – but not so with email. Fear of offending the sender by not responding quickly enough cause many to check email frequently, often every five minutes or sooner. Lack of clearly defined norms in email communications produces anxiety and fear in many and results in increased stress levels.

2. Decreases in Productivity

Handling large numbers of emails and dealing with interruptions by email programs can lead to a decrease in productivity.

Large numbers of emails with their different topics and requests can lead to overwhelmed multitasking. Research has shown that overwhelmed multitasking actually leads to decreases in productivity and quality of work produced.

Notices of emails arriving can cause one to lose their train of thought and decrease productivity. One workplace study found that 70% of emails were reacted to within 6 seconds of their arrival and 85% within 2 minutes. The study also found that it took participants 64 seconds to recover their train of thought after the email interruption. Multiple email interruptions throughout the day significantly eat away at time needed to complete other projects.

3. Diminishes Self Expression

Unlike telephone conversations or face-to-face communications where one can use body language and facial expressions, email has no non-verbal cues. It is easy to misinterpret ambiguous emails or take away an unintended message, either negative or positive.

Studies have found that individuals consistently overestimate their ability to communicate effectively with email, especially when trying to convey anger, seriousness, sadness or humor. One study showed that participants thought their sarcasm in an email was communicated 80% of the time. The true figure was closer to 56%.

Research has consistently shown that it is very hard to express anything more than literal meanings in email. Overconfidence in expressing emotions in email can lead to decreased emotional well-being when the recipient of the email does not interpret the intent correctly.

Coming Back to the Light

There are ways to take control back and reduce your stress and anxiety associated with email viagra 50mg avis. Here are a few:

Create an email routine – use your email application only when you must send or receive emails and close it down for periods throughout the day when you don’t want to be interrupted. Inform family and colleagues of your routine to minimize any anxiety over having to answer emails immediately any time of the day.

Pick up the phone – if you have a situation where you must convey or express emotions or nuances of language, call the person or meet them face-to-face. There will be less risk of misinterpretation by the recipient and you will have the opportunity to clarify concepts or thoughts immediately, saving possible embarrassment, fear and anxiety.

Switch off email notifications – research has recommended that you limit or completely switch off notifications on your digital devices. This will remove the distraction of notifications and will allow you to focus on other things. Your productivity may increase and that will improve your sense of well-being and accomplishment.

Deactivate push email – unless it is a job-related or service-related requirement, deactivate push email and only download email when you instruct your device to do so. This will allow you to regain control over the flow of your emails and help minimize distractions and stress.


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