How Obsessive Email Checking is Ruining Our Lives and How You Can Take Yours Back

The social revolution hit mankind at the dawn of the 21st century with a bang. The so called ‘Information age’ began in the late 90’s with the advent of what we call electronic mail or e-mail. In the two decades that have since passed, e-mail has become a household phenomenon and has now got plenty of brothers and sisters in the form of several social networking and micro blogging sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Instagram so on and so forth.

The invention and immense popularity of smart phones has further compounded our obsessive compulsive email checking addiction problems by giving a smooth platform to catch hold of this baby at a moment’s notice (faster & easier than even smoking a cigarette! Who would have thought!!!).

In this article, we take a close hard look at the various social hazards of email addiction and a few simple steps that we can take to insulate ourselves from it.

Email: Running of our life or ruining of our life?

First and foremost, e-mail has carefully cultured an era of non-thoughtful responses. An ancient saying goes ‘Watch your words! Words once issued can’t be taken back’ holds true more so than ever in this age and time. Excessive e-mailing, chatting etc. while giving us the freedom and liberty of messaging/reply at a moment’s notice, has taken away our wisdom and thoughtfulness at a sub-conscious level prompting us to issue words that we will regret later on. This is causing stress in many a relationships both in professional and personal circles.

Secondly, obsessive compulsive email checking has taken away our focus and perseverance; two extremely essential qualities of a progressive and wise mind. To see this trend among youth, who are the future of our civilization, is even more painful and hazardous. It is not an uncommon site to see people endlessly glued to their phones and completely lose track of what’s going around them. It is also alarming to see the constant rise in number of road accidents across the globe due to e-mailing/texting while driving.

There have been several studies done by scientists to see the impact of high speed digital media, e-mail and associates on the stress levels of the general populace. The results have been astounding to see how excessive use of this media is directly proportional to stress levels and increased risk of diseases such as heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes, mental depression and so on. The situation is so grave that many subjects who are addicted to constant use of this media have shown uneasiness akin to withdrawal symptoms of a drug addict when kept away from their smart phones for a few days.

How to overcome this addiction

E-mail and other digital media by nature is not bad, but excessive and abusive use of these can lead to several problems stated above. In order to avoid such issues, some simple steps can be taken:

  1. Regulation not Obsession: It is natural that one wants to make use of this media to connect with friends, family and even professionally. The first and foremost rule of thumb is to use the media in a regulated way outside of the personal time that one must dedicate to oneself and his/her near and dear ones.
  2. Avoiding Social Intrusion: It is also important that one also limit one’s exposure to zillions of blogs, groups, messages out there. One should be very careful in selecting the email or social groups one wants to be part of and carefully draw a line/circle somewhere. Otherwise, one will simply be bombarded by endless messages from endless sources.
  3. Time boxing one’s social activities: If you have the habit of e-mailing anyone, at any time of day, at any notice, it will help tremendously to time box your social activity and be free of it outside that time. One may even consider keeping away the cell phone or disconnecting the internet/social media at other times.
  4. Thoughtfulness in one’s responses: Take some time out to ponder over your responses, especially in critical circumstances and not hold on to the habit of giving instant responses.
  5. Keeping professional and personal sites separate: As far as possible, one should keep the office work limited to office only and not bring everything including the stress of the e-mail to home.

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48 Responses

  1. I strongly agree with you on points 1,2 and 5
    But I don’t agree on time boxing.
    And when you think about what to send you often end up overthinking and wasting time.
    Good work keep posting✅

    • B Figueroa says:

      I agree that boundries need to be drawn. For our home it is NOT email but social media, shopping and games that keep us glued to our phones. I will definitely try cutting back this week and I think I will see a difference. Has anyone ever tried to actually put the phone away completely for a day or more?

      • Fermin420 says:

        I actually don’t think putting the phone away is even possible for most people. I wouldn’t consider myself addicted to social media but definitely tend over check my email for responses because I use it for working purposes. Of course it would be healthy to slow down a little bit, but is it even possible these days?

    • 17emilyhalko says:

      I only agree with point 3 in some circumstances. I think that if you have a job that requires you to constantly check on your email, then that is one circumstance. If you are someone who doesn’t immediately need to look at your email for job-purposes, then you really shouldn’t be checking all of the time. You should be focusing on whatever you should be focusing on at the time, whether it is yourself, someone else, or a task. Also, if you obsessively check your phone while you are in the middle of doing something else, not only will you be distracted and inattentive to that thing, but you also probably will not be able to write an email response to the best of your ability, because you are trying to multi-task.

  2. lachris15 says:

    I agree I have a huge problem with checking my emails all the time. I have so many emails that I am mostly checking to delete them as they come in. If I do not they will build up and quickly. I learned my lesson about not deleting them so even though I do not want to I still have to. I know that I can just create a new email address to get rid of the spam but I need this one so I am stuck with it. I have cut down on checking it so much. I also agree that keeping personal and professional separate is important.

    • Lavender says:

      Have you tried using filters to organize your inbox? I didn’t start using them until much recently, and they have made a huge improvement. In Gmail, the labels that you create can be based on the sender, or even some words in the email itself. You can then mute those labels, or have them marked as read and archived, so you will only be notified about the important emails. I also use Unroll.me to have all my newsletters in one place in my inbox.

  3. Macijah says:

    I totally agree with this! Found this helpful!

  4. Timothy says:

    I agree 100%, I’ve made a lot of bad decisions because I didn’t think through what I was typing. It’s easy to do from behind a computer screen. However, I think this extends beyond email, as generally when I compose an email I do so with a professional and mature demeanor, often reading over it time and time again before sending.

    Text messages, Comments on social media, and forums, however, I tend to be more careless and sometimes find myself wishing there were an undo button.

    I’ve always just used email for professional reasons; with very few exceptions.

    • sknox says:

      Definitely agree. You have to be mindful of what you type. It’s easy to get careless when emailing, even in a professional context. That’s why, most of the time, I do not reply immediately to emails, social media comments or text messages. I take a few minutes before responding and try to be thoughtful with my responses. There really is no “undo button” on the Internet, just as you said.

      Great article! I really enjoy the tips, especially #3. Setting out times for certain interactions is a great idea.

    • thePENofGODx0x0xz7 says:

      Not to mention that we are in the age when anything that you type on social media can even get you in trouble with the law. Be careful, you do not want to end up with a fine or even worse, incarcerated all because you have been typing with no filter. Type less gratuitously, know that your words will always cost you. If typing too quickly causes this problem then slow down, think about your words.

  5. Henry Yates says:

    Smartphones are an important part of our life, they keep us connected. But what we need to look for is that we don’t get too involved in smartphones tat we actually disconnect with the people around us. Do use your cellphone check your emails, even text. But the most important thing is to understand when to and when not to.

    • PhoneHome says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Its not just email, but social media, SMS, newsgroups, the list goes on and on. No-one is so ‘important’ that a communication via a piece of technology should take precedence over the people who have taken the trouble to be physically present with you. It’s as annoying as being in a shop when the server answers the phone allowing someone else efffectively to queue jump!

  6. ikarosalpha says:

    I’m having the most difficulty with the second step. Lately I found myself unliking and unsubscribing to feeds of which I think “I can live without seeing this everyday.” Having that mindset has really been the first step for me. And the information I do want to see, will have to wait until I have time for it, I shouldn’t waste productive hours in gathering often trivial information.

  7. valedevento says:

    It is absolutely true that we are losing so much time checking our e-mails and social media. Even when we are with family or friends, we seem to be glued to our smartphone. When socializing in real life, we should leave our phones in our bags and just have real conversations. Another tip is to set times when you check your e-mails, like after breakfast, at the end of your lunch break and again when you come home from work. Don’t allow yourself to check them at other times.

  8. atlmom5 says:

    This is an article that I absolutely need to forward to some people in my life. These people really don’t have a grip on their email and I really don’t like it when people are suppose to be out together(as a couple or group of friends hanging out), and just about everyone is on their phone checking emails or responding to an email. Hello…..why are you checking email when you’re suppose to be relaxing? You should’ve done that before coming out on the town or just wait the following day to respond. Checking email isn’t the same as looking at a quick text message, even though, continuously looking at your phone when you’re supposed to be engaged in social conversation with the person in front of you is very rude.

    • Kavon says:

      Yes, I agree. It’s not just rude, it also looks ridiculous when people are sitting at the same table and they’re talking to their friends on their phone, rather than each other. This is something totally new, that has come about with the existence of smartphones. It’s especially difficult for people from previous generations to understand.

  9. aquaticneko says:

    This article hit the proverbial nail on the head, I think. So many of us rely on social media, email etc to communicate we can no longer “think before we speak” kind of thing. I know a few younger ones, who are so much better at expressing themselves through text than actual oral communication. This is what they have grown up with. While I partially agree to the time boxing thing, overthinking can certainly be a problem as well. Therefore rather like time boxing, maybe we should try to learn how to prioritize. Maybe have a time set during the day for replying to certain emails (important ones) leaving less important ones for after work. Also, putting the phones and computers away when it is time to unwind and rest. Why do you need to be on the phone while eating, in bed, relaxing?

  10. Izabella says:

    I have never read anything more true. Smart phones seem to be overpowering in today’s society with everyone being glued to them. Email isn’t the only culprit when it comes to smartphones though as there are also apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and SMS. Instead of going and meeting your friends, like everyone used to do, people are now picking up their phones and communicating through social media.

    People are always feeling the urge to check their emails even when no new emails could have come through. They are just doing it out of habit and instinct which is something that they really need to be aware of and stop.

  11. DangerSuit says:

    I find that 99% of my time spent on email is passively absorbing the information presented to me by the hundreds of newsletters, adverts, updates etc… I barely ever actually send an email. I spend so much time ingesting information, I never have enough time to a) process that information into knowledge or b) use that knowledge to communicate with others and actually get something useful done.

    I am tempted to unsubscribe from a lot of content aggregators (medium, pocket, instapaper) which shoot interesting articles to my inbox every morning*, and instead try to write something of my own.

    Do the rest of you have the same problem, feeling too bogged down with incoming information to ever broadcast your own thoughts and ideas?

    *My only exception will be this blog, which I will subscribe to!

  12. hafiz93 says:

    I don’t think people check their internet that often nowadays. They will check it more they’re waiting for something important, like an approval e-mail. But the social media are the thing that consumes their time. Twitter and especially Facebook since nowadays Facebook has become more of a sharing site rather than updating your status. People will waste hours on Facebook just watching videos, gifs and maybe read articles. The thing that I think helps is by having something else to keep you busy like maybe playing games, talking to people, or watch a movie.

  13. mary austin says:

    I SO need to take this advice. Almost every other minute there’s a notification coming in on my phone, usually email or Facebook. I’m constantly feeling frazzled from all the people I have to get back to, and the way I am, I always feel obligated to respond the moment I see a message. Then add in text messages, Facebook, Instagram, etc, and I’m sure I look as scatterbrained as I feel. It’s hard to concentrate on anything anymore, but everytime I try to disconnect, I keep coming back. I can’t seem to help myself!

  14. lgmini93 says:

    It does ruin mine for sure.
    I am talking with someone but often my eyes are on the phone, looking at messages and notifications. When other people do this to me it is annoying, so i can imagine how bad it could be.

  15. Loopulk says:

    An interesting read. I think one problem with emails these days is that we aren’t taught how to write a proper email. I’m in high school, grade 12, and have yet to be taught how to format one. What’s too casual/formal? It’s a bit of a struggle sometimes especially considering most people my age only use email to sign up for websites or for more professional situations.

    I was shocked that mental depression has increased because of social media use. It’s kind of ironic that a lot of people use social media (ex. Tumblr) to try and cope with it. It’s sad, too, because even though it might help in some instances, the fact that it could make it worse is upsetting.

    • Brianna says:

      I’m not at all surprised about the increase in depression due to overuse of social media. I myself use the Internet as a coping mechanism. I can spend hours on the web, and although it does offer a brief distraction, I usually feel worse in the end. I think social media is one of the absolute worst ways to manage depression. Although websites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc are supposed to connect us, the experience can be isolating. Those with depression tend to isolate themselves, and I believe the Internet can be somewhat of a crutch for them.

  16. Snarya says:

    Smartphones have made our life easier but on the other hand, sometimes I feel like they have enslaved us. Wherever I turn I see people glued to their phones, always checking emails and social media and ignoring each other. When I got my first smartphone, I must confess I was one of those people. I was always checking my emails and looking up something on the internet up to the point I realized I had my cell phone in my hand most of the time. That was when I started to set some boundaries, I decided I would check my emails and social media only when I was at home, using my desktop. It was hard at first but I managed to do it and now I use my smartphone only to call, text and look up something important that can’t wait until I get home. I feel much more free now. Thank you for the interesting article, it will be useful to many people.

  17. Novelangel says:

    My husband and I make it a point to not look at or answer email while eating or while out and about together. There is a time and a place for that sort of thing, and in this day and age when you can basically carry the entire internet around with you in your pocket, personal regulation is not only needed, it’s essential in order to maintain our face-to-face relationships.

  18. eduguy says:

    I honestly think that as of now, email is not as big of a problem as Social Media. I personally find that there are more people addicted to Social Media than email. Social Media tends to be more instant in regards to communication, such as Facebook Messenger or iMessage, and it allows you to discover more content than email. For example, you could spend hours on the Instagram Explore page, or on Reddit browsing through random content and photos. I only obsessively check my email when I’m expecting an important message.

  19. Lex says:

    Recently I have taken control and no longer check emails or for messages unless I am expecting one, or if it’s convenient for me. I also have friends that expect me to respond at all hours and I do ignore them and tell them clearly that I do switch off my phone because I don’t like to be disturbed when I am busy. The phone is for me to contact people, and not a carte blanche for people to contact me 24/7, and most people respect that.

  20. seupaulo says:

    I overcome this problem but scheduling my phone to sync my mail every hour. I know a lot can happen in one hour, but it will be not the end of the world if you only check it after 60 min. It is working for me.

  21. krnd says:

    I am truly guilty of this, somehow I can’t manage to stop checking my e-mail as it is such a big way to get people to contact me on a daily basis. It can be work, friends, or some subscription based content I am waiting for, but even right as I am sleeping I could be waking up to check it.. This was an enjoyable read to reflect on!

  22. BRIANNA LIMON says:

    Its amazing how fast human kind is evolving and how it is effecting us. I do not like the speed of things and how people are continually loosing interaction with there own kind because a device that is smaller than their brains.

  23. wameyo says:

    Very true. Most guys are getting addicted to checking their emails and social networks and its ruining a lot of people. I remember we were once in a very important meeting at work and one of our colleagues was asked a question by the manager and since she was very busy chatting on her she didn’t hear her name being called. She was finally let with a warning letter and a warning letter at our workplace means no promotion for that year.

  24. jahroberts says:

    I can agree that it has taken away, to some level, our wisdom and thoughtfulness.

    You see plenty of photos on the web saying ‘your face when you send a text and then regret it’. Which isn’t surprising because people, including myself, send silly and stupid emails, social media messages and other messages just because it’s on the web, it feels like there will be no consequence.

    Sadly I have to admit that email/social media/the Internet itself is running and probably ruining my life.

    Like right now I’m typing this on my mobile.

    Very informative post, really makes you think.

  25. anorexorcist says:

    Thanks for sharing this article with us, it’s actually really interesting.
    I don’t really have a problem with checking my e-mails but I kind of do when it comes to just keep my eyes on my phone, I’m not sure how to explain it. But sometimes is stressing because I feel that I’m wasting my time (and sometimes really precious moments) just by spending my time there, but everyone around me seems to be doing the same thing, I really hope that this changes but at the same time tecnology have done wonders for us and I can’t see a world without it…

  26. jlawson23 says:

    This post shares a number of good ideas to prevent obsessive email checking. I simply wish they were easier to implement. Although I often try to regulate when I check my email, I cannot prevent checking it obsessively when I am anticipating an email. However, I think I might be able to regulate a little bit easier if I could implement the fifth tip of keeping professional email separate from personal. I will certainly have to implement these steps and see if it helps me out.

  27. Lavender says:

    I’ve started checking my emails once a day at a particular time. Other than that, I’ve switched off notifications for them so I don’t get the new message notification every single time I get a new email in my inbox. Emails processed in a batch are more time efficient than checking them as they come. It is also less intrusive while I go about my day.

    I can’t say that emails aren’t really thought out. They’re considerably more thought out responses than texts, and even then, if you’re not used to it, you can choose the best words and the best way to say things. Other than that, I agree with the points made in this.

  28. dame6089 says:

    Good article! I have an issue where it bothers me if my iPhone has the little red number saying I have an email. I don’t understand how people have thousands of unchecked emails. I would go insane.

    Something not mentioned here that is a great way to reduce time spent checking emails is to have different email accounts for different thing. For example, I have a Yahoo account that I use for all of my leisure and less serious emails, whereas my gmail is for more professional matters. That way, if I see a Yahoo email pop up, I know it isn’t that important and can be addressed later when I have more leisure time.

  29. Finman0507 says:

    Cell phones and technology has taken over the lives of millions of people. It’s amazing how it can restrict you in so many ways. I mean you don’t talk to people that much anymore because it is “easier” to pop them an email. I have also come to a point in my live that I put off my notifications on my phone at specific times. For example when my work day is done or on a weekend when I need to spend time with my family and friends. This article is written really good and gives constructive advice. Thanks for sharing.

  30. arunava2016 says:

    All good and relevant points. But, I think this is like smoking or any other addiction that requires a lot of mental strength to have control upon. It up to the individual if he or she wants to run the phone or be run by it. The smartphone addiction is ruining our social and family live as we are getting more and more isolated from one another and tend to live in a virtual world. If you want to get rid of it, this article should help. Don’t use social media if not necessary, check email only when you are at your office desk and spend real quality time with your friends and family and try to arrange get together parties every now and then.

  31. snaktime says:

    I can totally relate to your article about email and other instant notifications constantly demanding your attention and ruining relationships. As an Android user, I actually love Gmail’s ability to only notify me of important email messages in the Prmary folder. All random mail is simply filtered into updates, forums, promotions and social. I now check my phone for new mail maybe once an hour instead of every 10 minutes.

  32. victoriaagyin says:

    By reading this, I realize how true this is. I wake up every morning and check my email. I check my email about 10 times during the day. And I check my email before I go to bed. That’s about 12 times a day of checking emails. Most of the time, I’m not even receiving any emails. However, I just don’t feel complete without checking my emails. It’s become a routine in my life now.

  33. ringring says:

    I’m so glad the issue of phone addiction is being addressed!
    Everytime I walk into a restaurant I see tables where all family members are looking down at their phones. How are they able to spend quality time together? Even the baby has a handheld device. A friend of mine works with small kids who have trouble communicating. She says that when such devices are no longer used the baby’s ability to communicate and interact gets better.

    I also read in Arianna Huffington’s book ‘The Sleep Revolution’ that use of these devices at night is detrimental to sleep. Instead of winding down, the bright light sends a signal for the brain to stay awake. I tested myself on this and found that if I put it away I began to feel sleepier.

  34. ASHLEY HERRINGTON says:

    I agree with this. I am a bit obsessive when it comes to checking my emails. It drives my fiance crazy. Though, I do keep personal and work emails together, which makes it even worse! Thanks for this article!

  35. greenlady5 says:

    This is a great article! I hate to admit that I’m addicted to my phone. The first and the last thing I do every day is checking my mail. And not just that, there are also social networks, newspapers and everything else that wastes my time. It drives me crazy when I see that I put my phone before many other important things, but I continue doing it. Instead of spending time with my family and friends I rather stare at my phone. So, yes, it became an obsession nowadays and I’m afraid that it’s advance is unstoppable.

  36. greenlady5 says:

    This is a great article! I hate to admit that I’m addicted to my phone. The first and the last thing I do every day is checking my mail. And not just that, there are also social networks, newspapers and everything else that wastes my time. It drives me crazy when I see that I put my phone before many other important things, but I continue doing it. Instead of spending time with my family and friends I rather stare at my phone. So, yes, it became an obsession nowadays and I’m afraid that it’s advance is unstoppable.

  37. Wheezybz says:

    It really depends on the person as to how obsessive their email checking is. I’ve only ever checked my email frequently when I was waiting on something important t be sent otherwise I’ve gone days without checking my email.

  38. 17emilyhalko says:

    I thought that I was the only one who had this problem! I obsessively check my emails all of the time, hoping to get a sale on Ebay or a new job offer. It depresses me, really, to do this and not get a response back. While technology is supposed to be innovative and is supposed to save us time, I think that this trend actually disrupts quality time that we need to ourselves and the quality time that we personally need with others. I think that allotting special times of the day for emails is a good idea, so that we stay focused on the things that we are doing at any given time.

  39. Clair02 says:

    I have so much of my day taken up by the instant notifications too. I just can’t help running to check each and every message as soon as it comes. It’s a really bad habit that I have to let go of and I’m certainly going to start right now to take my life back. I’m quite sure I can find way better uses for my time.

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