Email Overload Syndrome: Too much in too many places

Web email access was meant to make life easier. But now with multiple services interconnecting and "working together", it just shows that "working together" means "working against the will of the user."

As I prepare for "reading week", a mid-point in the Autumn term which gives us a week off to catch up with all of our reading materials, I have reflected back upon the frustration of communication failures since the new arrivals started.

I sit here at home on a Friday morning an exhausted man. The reason? The constant influx of information from left, right, center... email account, BlackBerry, Outlook and Facebook has reached the point where I am tempted to pack the lot of them in and head to the most isolated part of England for a week.

If only life were that simple.

I have four email addresses. One is a @hotmail.com which has newsletters and mostly spam come through, and a second is a @live.com which pretty much just manages my social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. My third is an xGSi account which I now rarely use, but only use for keeping up to date with my former workplace, and my last but most important is my university email account @kent.ac.uk.

With the exception of my university email account, my communications are a shambles.

With regards to university email identities, I use my staff username which allows me to login to my student email. This enables me to use Outlook Web Access instead of Sun Java Communications Express - the web email service dedicated to students - giving me far more email storage and better features. But I cannot send or receive email through my staff identity, only my student one - which is fine, but a little confusing nonetheless.

Even though I access my web email through Outlook Web Access, I can still access it through the standard Sun Java Communications Express which for some reason forwards all email to my Gmail account. This was, however, part of an ongoing experiment to coax my old Nokia phone to accept my email without using my email server settings which it automatically rejected.

But with my welfare work and ZDNet work, the necessity to keep on top of email communications is an absolute necessity. I cannot switch off because if I do, a student could be at risk or a massive story could break and I could miss out on it. This is why I cannot be or go anywhere without my BlackBerry.

With this it means I get all of my email accounts on the go - which can be useful, but with the amount of stuff I receive, I often resort to screaming at my phone as I hold it in my hand close to my face, which is neither productive nor indicative of a man in sound mind.

But before the almighty suicide of my hard drive a few days ago, I had every email from every account stored locally on my computer through the desktop client Windows Live Mail; simply because Outlook 2007 got a little too intense for me.

Whether I use Windows Live Mail, Sun Java Communication Express, Outlook Web Access, Gmail, Hotmail or my BlackBerry, the only relief I have is that these email accounts all show exactly the same email folders and messages, as they are all interconnected with one another. The problem is that I still quite can't get my head around how they are structured, because part of it is managed by my university IT department.

The thing is with the work we do more often than not we have to remain connected at all times. We can check our email constantly throughout the day only to discover some emails on some services aren't flagged, are all unread, are not organised or synchronised with your end-of-day perception.

My email is essentially a slightly more complicated version of a to-do list. I read things, mark them as unread or flag them so I go back to them later on and see what else I have to do. I have no central point of viewing these things, meaning I print them off and carry them around with me.

So if anyone else has an email system like this, I feel for you. It's technological red tape and it's tying my hands behind my back every day with the e-bureaucracy I face using it. I'd be happy to stick to phone calls instead.

Could I be the first victim of Email Overload Syndrome? I doubt it, but I suspect I need a single dose of simplicity serum and a nice cup of shut the hell up.

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