Why She’s Never Going To Respond To Your Emails

It's because "she" is your mom and her green-screened Nokia 5110 doesn't have email

(Illustration: R. A. Di Ieso/Vocativ)
Oct 07, 2015 at 2:57 PM ET

The age, gender and level of tech savvy of email recipients determines how quickly they’ll respond to your message, a new study finds. Despite being glued to short-form instant messaging platforms, Trigger-happy teens still love email, and are quickest to hit reply, taking just thirteen minutes on average to email back. Adults over fifty take three times as long to respond. Smartphone users are twice as fast as fogies who only check mail on their desktop computers, and women, generally, are slower to respond than men.

The findings may help predict when (or if) your love interest is finally going to return those messages, or how long you should wait before bugging a co-worker in person. Plug in the gender, age and technological capabilities of any email recipient, and the authors say they can predict whether you should expect a response immediately (within 15 minutes) quickly (within two hours) or slowly (more than three hours). The preliminary model isn’t perfect, but it can already take some of the uncertainty—and frustration—out of refreshing your inbox. Or you can, y’know, call the person and speak to them in real life.

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In the future, the authors hope that their study will help make emails more efficient. “Patterns of email interactions reveal…the structure of evolving conversations,” they write. “Understanding how these patterns shape email use is necessary for designing the next generation of interaction tools that will improve the efficiency of communication.”

And email can use all the help it can get. People have been trying to kill email for years, and with communication platforms like Slack threatening to make it obsolete, clunky electronic mail could certainly benefit from an efficiency boost. Here’s hoping science, data and our e-idiosyncrasies still have time to save email.