I know I'm going to draw lot of flak for this topic. But, hey, its the truth. The frequency with which we check mails HAS increased over the years. I agree, I do hear voices that say that it is because of change in career (we have moved from being school kids to college students to professionals), way we communicate (there were days when my grandmom used to wait for a letter from her daughter in Delhi for days, now all my mom need to do is to log on to her mail id to check for her daughter's mails), way we plan things out (how many times parties and events and trips have been decided between friends through email? I still remember a bday party where there were 54 mails within an hour :D) and the way we live. I'm all for these changes as they help a person a lot in communication (if not for my bank emails and credit card emails, I would totally forget the finance stuff and would have to run to the bank every time I want to do some transaction!! Life is infinitely simpler now!) but I've also seen people who check mails every five minutes! Mind you, its not as if they are expecting some important mail... its more out of habit. And in this country and age, where wireless devices are becoming more the norm rather than an addition, I find people checking mails in malls, theatres, parks, beaches (for heavens sake! They come to the beach to get away from it all and they check their mails there!!! One of my friends' husband is a compulsive email addict. The first thing he asked in the Florida beach resort where they stayed was how good the internet connection would be on the beach. Apparently he is not the only one who has asked this question. The resort employees told him about the facilities they had and his joy knew no bounds. Though he had fun with his wife and friends, my friend always says that she does not get her husband for herself for a full day. He is always connected and always checking mails and replying to them. She has learned to live with it but its sad that it has to be like this)!!
Also, people have a number of accounts. Yours truly, herself has four accounts, one for work, one for personal stuff, one for groups and one for junk(I still have no idea as to when I started this one or why I maintain this one... but its better to get all the junk in one of them. I can just log in one day and clean it all up rather than having the junk mail mess up my work or personal one. This id is given when I'm testing a site and I want some service but don't really want them or their partners to mail me). My roommate is tired of logging on to a number of her accounts and just redirects it all to one id and uses one email client. Another of my friends does it too. But, for people like her, the problem in closing down unwanted accounts is that they don't know to whom they've given which id. What if the id they close is given to someone important by chance? (A, I know you face this problem!).
It's good that Google or Windows Live or Yahoo doesn't let you open two accounts in the same Firefox browser (I've stopped using IE long back! So, not sure how it is in IE's tabs). Otherwise, people would open two accounts at the same time and use them simultaneously. Though it doesn't stop the problem, it atleast reduces it a lot. Ok, getting back to the topic, what is it that makes people check for mail every few minutes? If you are a hot shot executive or team leader or editor or anyone on earth who gets mail every few minutes, it makes sense to keep checking. But, strangely, it is these people who check their mails at set times of the day and don't give in to compulsive mail checking. They rather check their mails once, work on them and try to finish them off as soon as possible. One of the executives whom I've worked with in the past says that it channelizes his time and energy and lets him concentrate on his work thereby increasing his efficiency (ok! I might have a 'paper' effect in this post (aka) writing a sentence of ten words in twenty words so that the high brow conferences and professors accept it. I've been writing papers (sadly all for my courses) all through the week and here I am, with traces of that effect still in me). I've felt it too.... the days (or rather, hours) when I'm not on gtalk (I love Google for this idea... introducing gtalk within gmail. Its awesome for a person like me. I can do both at the same time... and it was a savior when we were in college and all the chat applications were blocked. But the lab admins could do nothing about gtalk and we had a whale of a time! But, adhu oru kanaakaalam!), I work more and I'm more efficient... but with gmail or gtalk on, I tend to check mail as soon as I see Gmail - Inbox(1) on the title bar. One of my friends is even worser. He keeps doing his work and keeps checking every five minutes for mail. So, we all do know that efficiency suffers big time with this email addiction. Then what is it that still makes people do it and worse yet, make it a habit?
I can guess only two reasons. First, people want to connect with others all the time. Even if they say that they are introverts and don't connect easily, man is a social animal (did I learn this in fourth standard? Good job, Alpine! You still remember fourth standard lessons ;)) and email doesn't require you to actually talk to a person real time on the face(though IMs also help in this regard, nothing is more convenient than email where you can think for hours to give back a reply which when said to in public, you won't have enough time to do so... even IMs require that you reply within seconds or minutes). It's the need to connect that drives people to do crazy things, even checking email on the beach!
Second reason is a bit wacky (based on how you take it). People want to share their time with more people. They feel that they share the same time(say an hour) with more people(friends, coworkers, spouse, etc) when they check mail along with something else that they are doing (otherwise, why would a guy want to check mails while he is having TV time with his family? He gets to spend time with his kids, share a joke with his wife and also check up with his coworker! Disclaimer: though I've used male gender here, both genders are becoming equally bad at this as the age group reduces. God save our kids!! When our generation women become mothers, we would be singing lullaby in one hand and checking mails in the other! LOL!!).
Finally(this is not a reason but still a tentative thought), people want to know more all the time in everything. That is why you watch a movie or do some work and still keep checking mails on the side so that you just CANNOT stop hearing the office gossip or the friends' gang gossip that comes in through email. I can come up with a bunch of more reasons ranging from getting a mail inflates your ego because someone thinks you are important enough to send a mail (nammalayum mathichu oruthan mail anuppi irukaanyaa!! (read in Solomon Paapaiyaa's style :D)) to you being plain bored and are either tired of networking sites/games or don't know about them. But, readers, what is your opinion about it? Also do share your experiences about it (I'm sure the tech people would have loads to tell about it). And, any ways you've seen/heard/done to break this addiction!!