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It's hard to remember what our lives were like without e-mail. Ranking up there with the Web as one of the most useful features of the Internet, e-mail has become one of today's standard means of communication. Billions of messages are sent each year. If you're like most people these days, you probably have more than one e-mail address. After all, the more addresses you have, the more sophisticated you look...
E-mail is part of the standard TCP/IP set of protocols. Sending messages is typically done by SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and receiving messages is handled by POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3), or IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol). IMAP is the newer protocol, allowing you to view and sort messages on the mail server, without downloading them to your hard drive.
Though e-mail was originally developed for sending simple text messages, it has become more robust in the last few years. Now, HTML-based e-mail can use the same code as Web pages to incorporate formatted text, colors, and images into the message. Also, documents can be attached to e-mail messages, allowing files to be transfered via the e-mail protocol. However, since e-mail was not originally designed to handle large file transfers, transferring large documents (over 3 MB, for example) is not allowed by most mail servers. So remember to keep your attachments small!
In this day and age, most of us receive several e-mails a day. Depending on your job, you may even receive dozens of daily messages that are not spam. While it is hard enough to keep up with this plethora of e-mails received in a single day, if you fall behind a few days, it can be nearly impossible to catch up. After awhile, you may end up with hundreds of messages in your inbox that have not been replied to.
If your become submerged underneath an endless pile of e-mail in your inbox, the only way out may be to declare e-mail bankruptcy. Similar to a financial bankruptcy, e-mail bankruptcy involves writing off the losses and starting over. The most tactful way of declaring e-mail bankruptcy is to paste all the e-mail addresses from the messages you have not responded to into a single message. Then send a message explaining that you have fallen too far behind on your e-mail and apologize for not responding. The quicker, but less considerate option is to simply delete all the old messages and start over like nothing ever happened.
While it is best to avoid e-mail bankruptcy by keeping up with your e-mail, for some people it may be the only way to get current with their correspondence. If you are in a situation where you feel overwhelmed by the growing number of messages in your inbox, make sure you first reply to the most important messages. Then, as a last resort, declaring e-mail bankruptcy may give you the fresh start you need.