The term "e-mail bankruptcy" may have been coined as early as 1999 by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, who studies the relationship between people and technology.
Professor Sherry Turkle said she came up with the concept after researching e-mail, and discovering that some people harbor fantasies about escaping their e-mail burden. She estimated that she has 2,500 pieces of unread e-mail in her inbox, is one of those people.
The supposed convenience of electronic mail has become too much for some people. Swamped by an unmanageable number of messages and plagued by annoying spam and viruses, some users are really overload.
Those declaring bankruptcy are swearing off e-mail entirely or, more commonly, deleting all old messages and starting fresh.
Many workers like the feeling that they have everything done at the end of the day, but e-mail overload gives them the sense that their work is never done. So, some are moving back to the telephone as their preferred means of communication.
Some people, who don't want to go through the drastic-seeming measure of declaring total bankruptcy, are trying to gently discourage the use of e-mail in their communications in favor of more personal calls or instant messages, but they continue to struggle with the question of whether or not to reply.