Hasn’t email ruined enough vacations, marriages, and careers? Will it now steal a chance at the presidency? Hillary Clinton’s server issue is a symptom of a deeper problem: email causes us to make bad decisions. Several times, she admitted that she wished she had acted differently. We have all made mistakes on email: sent it to the wrong person, replied all, or sent a half-drunk, angry message in the middle of the night.
Millennials take blame for being constantly connected, but the Boomers are just as guilty, and we should know better. We know that email lives forever: on the sender’s server, on the receiver’s server, in print, posted on social media sites—in countless crevices. And double deleting doesn't save us from legal discovery software.
We assume a level of privacy because email has driven us to communicate quickly, often without any sense at all. We accept privacy policies without reading them, manage 122 emails a day, and "shoot" each other emails. As mobile use increases, email joins IM and texts, for which people expect an immediate response.
But these behavioral approaches miss the point: we love email. The immediacy and volume feed the micromanager's feelings of disconnection and lack of trust, making us dependent on email to function. We risk reputational and relational damage to maintain our addiction.
Clinton has experienced on a large scale what we have all come to realize about email: it owns us, and we are to blame.
Everyone needs a private cave like Fitzgerald Grant's on Scandal, and perhaps Clinton will get one. In the meantime, let’s remember that no email message—nor any written communication that travels via the web or satellite—is truly private.