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Commentary: Why we can’t quit email, even though we all hate it

LONDON: It’s the sheer variety of emails that bewilders. A forwarded review of a fried-chicken shop, suggesting it as a venue for a date. A heartfelt break-up letter, one that could have been written on paper in the 1960s. A note from Joe to his friend Brian suggesting a way to make a bit of cash, which turned out to be the founding document of Airbnb.

Printed large and displayed on the wall of the Design Museum in London, each of these emails is part of a temporary exhibition Email Is Dead. The show was created in partnership with, and funded by, an email marketing company, so it is no place to come for a dispassionate evaluation of the medium’s strengths and weaknesses.

Still, those emails linger in the mind.


There’s an exchange between a young man announcing the relaunch of his business and his proud parents telling him how much they love and respect him. This frozen conversation would always have been meaningful, but its significance changed when he died the next day of a sudden heart attack.

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