Cue, an app for organizing your online personal information, collects data about its users and has come up with a number of interesting discoveries, among them: it is taking people around 10% longer, on average, to answer their email than it did a year ago.
This is probably partly because people are just getting more email. The Radicati Group, a market research firm, estimated in 2011 that the average corporate email user would be sending and receiving about five extra emails a day (pdf, p. 3) each year from 2011 to 2015—or a 4%-5% annual increase.
But then there’s all the extra time people spend on every other form of communication, like text messages, instant message chats, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat… all of which are frankly a lot more fun than email. And quicker too. And given the increasingly tiny increments of time into which our days our divided, it’s amazing we answer email at all.
On current trends, then, if email response times keep increasing by 10% a year, and assuming that an average postal delivery time in your country is two days, I estimate that by approximately 2020 it will be faster to get an answer from someone by writing a letter than by sending an email. At that point Google, in order to keep one of the pillars of its advertising business, may find itself obliged to take over the postal systems of the world. Which may be just as well, since nobody else will be able to afford to run them.