We all prefer being in control, don’t we? After all, it surely beats not being in control, doesn’t it (certain Shades of Grey personality types excepted . . . )?
Why is it, then, that so many of us cede control of our email existences by choosing to rent rather than own our email addresses? That’s a major relinquishing of control, isn’t it?
I bring this up here because this blog is just about always about smartening up, and because there are smart ways and not-so-smart ways to put together your email life. At the extreme not-so-smart end of that spectrum you’ll find people merely renting their main email addresses, and at the other, yes-very-smart extreme of that spectrum you’ll find people owning their main email address. Down below we’ll take up that spectrum, beginning with a merely-renting approach that is so very not-so-smart as to fall all the way into the category of being just plain ol’ dumb, and then we’ll move on through various levels of renting that look more and more like ownership, until we arrive at the promised land of outright, unconstrained, all-encompassing Capital-P Capital-O Private Ownership. So please do read on to see how smart or not-so-smart you’ve set up your email existence, and what you might want to do to improve it, OK? And thank you for your interest.
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The worst way to set up your email existence is to use the email address you have through your employer as your be-all and end-all — as your everything-all — email address.
Two big problems (at least two . . . ) arise when your everything-all email address is owned by your employer.
First, if you ever leave your job, then your email address will be yanked away from you and, worse still, if that leaving is brutish and out of the blue — getting fired is, after all, a part of life, and often a good part, too! — then your loss of access to all your emails will also be brutish and out of the blue, as in: someone walks up to you, asks you to leave the premises, and you’re not allowed to ever touch your computer, ever again. So ya know all those emails from friends you cherished? They’re gone. And you know that address book that took you years to build up? That’s vamoosed too — with no time to say goodbye, and no time to move all those cherished digits to somewhere else, where you can still enjoy them, as in buh-bye valuable, irreplaceable info, I will never know your warm, helpful caress again.
Second, mooshing together all your business emails with all your personal emails is just asking for trouble because mooshing together separate things is just about always asking for trouble. For instance, what if your friends send you a ton of graphics-rich emails every day, each ten megs or more in size, and you do the same? How will that go over with your IT department? They *are* watching, you know, and they in all likelihood have no qualms about reading your emails. Or how about if your nemesis at work one day is walking by your workspace and notices over your shoulder that you’re reading something just a touch risqué that some stranger-who-knows-a-distant-friend-of-yours sent to you and a thousand other people, at which point your nemesis takes the next week or so to hang you out to dry in a perfectly-excruciating, slow-steady-tortuous Machiavellian way? It *has* happened. And then there’s also the risk of accidentally sending an email you meant to go to, for example, your “Dad” to instead go to, say, “Dan” who — ouch — just happened to be the brunt of your venomous ridicule that particular day which just happened to be the main topic of that particular mis-addressed email which you just accidentally sent to Dan (gee, who knows, maybe deep down inside you actually wanted Dan to know what you thought of him . . . ?).
It’s kind of like that saying about what *not* to do too close to your drinking water. It’s also what lawyers are thinking about when they advise against putting two different things into one single box, as well as what database people think when they see that someone has merged two discrete sorts of data series into one overall data field, knowing that some day soon someone will no doubt need to use one of those data series in its pristine, de-merged form, which will require some poor database person somewhere to perform a non-trivial task. In all of these examples, the M.O. is simple: keep separate things separate. Avoid future needs to parse and tease-out disparates!
So please, if you use your employer-based based email as your main email address, remember: you are a mere renter of that email address and everything held within it. And, worse still, you don’t even rent it on a day-to-day basis: you rent it on a moment-to-moment basis. So just like how you’re likely an at-will employee, subject to being fired at any time for any reason, good or bad or nonexistent, so, too, is your email address an at-will email address, subject to being shut off whenever someone-not-you just so happens to feel like shutting it off.
And you know what happens then? You will have to let everyone in your world know that you have a new email address — a truly heeeyyyoooooooojjj PITB, to say the least. And to make matters worse, you are combining your non-work email life with your work email life, and that is a combo upon which many a good Hollywood murder mystery plot could be based.
So, bottom line, using your employer-based email address as your main email address is a bad, very bad, really very bad, really most terrible idea. Don’t do it. Only use it for your employer’s business.
The Next-Least-Smart Way to Set Up Your Email Existence: Using the Email Address You Have from Your Internet Service Provider as Your Only Email Address.
It’s always been suspected, and now it’s at least somewhat official: Comcast and Time Warner Cable are the most hated companies in all of America, with AT&T and Verizon, as well as those faded brands that mostly only exist in email-land such as SBC and PacBell and such, no doubt not too far behind. A lot of those negative feelings come from feeling like Comcast et al. have a lock on us — that they’re the only game in town, so we’re locked-in to their service — and that they provide a service that is fitting for a (cough cough, monopoly, cough cough, monopoly) business that knows it has its customers locked in and therefore chooses, at least subconsciously and sometimes perhaps quite consciously as well, to under-invest in the customer satisfaction parts of its business, thereby taking customer satisfaction down into the abyss, while all the while having its profitability — usually the harsh governor that makes companies care mightily about customer satisfaction — actually increase because its customers have nowhere to turn. So, true-dat, the customers hate the service, but true-dat again, they’re also staying with the service and paying their bills. At least for the time being . . .
So why is it, then, that so many Comcast et al. customers allow themselves to be locked-in further, by renting their main email addresses from companies they so dislike? If that’s you, then that monopolyco email address of yours represents just one more nail in your free-will coffin, making it just that much more difficult for you to up and leave when (not if) that business done treats you wrong. Do you really want to be a bit further locked into this commercially abusive relationship? And do you really think ISPs will ever provide, voluntarily, an email-forwarding service like the postal service has always provided (though sometimes not so skillfully . . .)? Why, that would be giving up a big chunk of their much-beloved customer lock-in, wouldn’t it? So that ain’t ever gonna happen, is it?
On the brighter side — and the reason an ISP-based email existence is not as bad as an employer-based email existence — it’s also true that, unlike an employer-based email address, an ISP-based email address is likely to remain yours for as long as you [air-quote] choose [close air-quote] to remain a customer of the ISP. So, yes, you are renting it, but at least you are renting it through a lease in which the landlord, at least so far in the history of the world, has shown zero inclination towards unilaterally evicting you.
The Pretty Smart Way to Set Up Your Email Existence: Using Free Web-Based Email Addresses Like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc.
Gmail, et al. offer a much better alternative — but still not the best (that comes one more chunk below). These sorts of addresses are free to use, and come with quite a bit of free online storage built in to boot (a full terrabyte of storage for Yahoo! Mail and — gosh Google, can you ever give a simple answer to anything anymore? — it looks like most people have 15 gigs built into their gmail addresses). True, if the product is free then you are the product, and in gmail’s case, this has meant that you will see ads when you log into your gmail-based email address via a web browser, but if you view your gmail-based email through most desktop software or mobile-device apps, in my experience those ads are easily avoided and sometimes downright not there. True, also, having Big Data like that hold your emails is to some extent making a pact with something not entirely benevolent, but, hey, it works pretty well. And I have to say that I love love love how the new gmail app and the rest of the new native-Android stuff looks on my phone. They call it Material Design.
The Totally Smart Way to Set Up Your Email Existence: Using Email Addresses that You Own for All Time
Ah, at last, our journey from dumb to smart is now complete; we are now all the way at the smart end of the spectrum. Feels good to be here, eh?
It probably comes as no surprise to you, given this rent vs own dichotomy I’ve set up in this piece, that the hands-down best way to set up your email existence comes from owning your email address, lock stock and barrel, from the git-go and from now until the end of time and throughout the universe amen. Going this route means that, once this email existence of your is fully up and running, you’ll never need to tell all your friends that you have a new email address, you’ll never be mooshing together business and personal emails, you’ll never have an IT person or a gmail intelligent ad-serving bot reading your emails and probing your psyche, etc.
And the good news is that it’s easier to do this than most people think!
The most direct and obvious way for you to own your own email address is for you to own your very own Internet domain. For instance, I own the Internet domain “JohnFriedmanFinancial.com” and, through that ownership, can set up any number of email addresses that use that domain for everything after the @ sign in the address. And as is true for most kinds of ownership, that also means that no one else can own an email address ending with JohnFriedmanFinancial.com (though it can be spoofed). It’s mine-all-mine and not-anyone-else’s. So if I wanted to, I could (and actually just did . . . ) set up an email address of You-Should-Own-Rather-Than-Rent-Your-Email-Address@JohnFriedmanFinancial.com. And it would be (and now it totally is ) mine, all mine, forever more. My precious . . .
I’ll leave it to the Internet to guide you in how to set this up — there are far better how-to’s out there than I could ever produce. But I will talk a bit about what this approach costs.
Owning a .com domain usually runs less than $15 a year and is often free or close-to-free the first year (yup, there’s that lock-in approach again . . . ) — unless, that is, you choose to use something like Network Solutions, which used to charge way too much for this stuff (and perhaps still does but I can’t say for sure because the Network Solutions website does not make it easy to see how much NSOL charges for domains.
Then you also need to have someone/some-company “host” your domain, or at least the email part of it, with plain vanilla hosting service usually running less than $10 a month and with hosting of the email part of it usually running about $2 or $3 a month and often thrown in for free along with the domain registration (though the email service that’s thrown in for free usually comes without many bells and whistles you might find important).
In this way, owning your own private island, so to speak, on the Internet — and with it, owning your email address forevermore — is totally doable, and probably doable at an annual cost that is, ballpark, in the neighborhood of the monthly cost you might be forking over to your cable company or Internet Service Provider or mobile phone service provider.
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So, please, if you can, stop renting your email address, buy your own domain and, with it, your own slate of email addresses, and then start changing over all your contacts, slowly but surely, to your very own, shiny, new, untouched, as-yet unspammed, email address. Better to do it now, at your own pace, rather than later when you might have to do it on zero-moment’s notice.
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Much financial health to you, and may you enjoy continuous success in improving it . . .