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Source: CyberAtlas

Posted on November 3, 2001

      Much like it is in America and other developed Internet markets, e-mail is the No. 1 activity of those online in Canada, a study by Ipsos-Reid found.

      E-mail is accessed multiple times weekly by 88 percent of online Canadians, and daily by 62 percent. Last year, the study found 84 percent used e-mail weekly and 53 percent used it daily. The average user received 22 messages per day at work or at home, according to this year's study.

      The study tracked more than 30 categories of Internet behavior, such as visiting news sites, checking the weather, online banking and downloading music, and found that nothing else comes close to e-mail in terms of frequency and impact.

      "The impact of e-mail in the workplace and at home has been nothing short of phenomenal. But we praise it on the one hand, and we curse it on the other," said Steve Mossop, a senior vice president with Ipsos-Reid.

      E-mail has fundamentally changed the way people communicate, and has also become an essential tool for office communications. Eighty-five percent of online Canadians believe that e-mail has made them much more efficient in the workplace, including 31 percent who agree strongly it has made them more efficient. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) prefer to communicate via e-mail than through other methods. In fact, 52 percent agree that they love their e-mail so much, that they couldn't live without it; another 21 percent strongly agree with that statement.

      Canadians' infatuation with e-mail has also resulted in information overload. Sixty-two percent agree that they receive too much irrelevant e-mail, and 39 percent said they can hardly keep up with all the e-mail they receive. About 57 percent check their business-related e-mail outside of normal business hours. In fact, 42 percent said they actually dread going on vacation or taking days off because of the amount of e-mail that they will need to respond to upon return.

      Other issues with e-mail revolve around the annoyance of receiving irrelevant messages from colleagues (which happens to 21 percent frequently and 45 percent occasionally), and the misuse or abuse of blind copying, which 46 percent frequently or occasionally experience. A further 42 percent have often been the uncomfortable recipient of an e-mail that has had the wrong tone, and one-quarter experience miscommunications as a result of the tone of an e-mail. Joke e-mails are also a contentious issue, but Internet users are split. About the same proportion agree they often receive joke e-mails that they consider inappropriate (37 percent), as those who agree they look forward to receiving joke e-mails at work (35 percent).

      "People have forgotten their manners at the e-mail table when it comes to interpersonal e-mail communications. Things that were unacceptable in a phone conversation or a person-to-person discussion have suddenly become the norm among e mail users," Mossop said. "It's an example of a classic technological conundrum; we have invented this wonderful technology, but have neglected to consider the rules or the ethics surrounding its usage."

      But when asked on an unprompted basis, 43 percent of Canadian Internet users said their No. 1 pet peeve of e-mail usage is spam. Spam received five times as many mentions as the next often-cited problem of unsolicited sales requests -- chain letters, pornography, jokes and viruses (each were mentioned by 8 percent or less).

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