Web Culture

4 Influential People Who Don’t Use Email (And Why)

Mihir Patkar 07-07-2015

It’s difficult to imagine a life without email, but some people are choosing to stop using it altogether. People like film director Christopher Nolan and billionaire John Paul Dejoria don’t use email at all, and couldn’t be happier about that.


While you can employ strategies to avoid email overload 3 Easy Ways To Stop Email Overload From Hitting Your Inbox Email has quite a reputation as a productivity killer. Managing email well can help you keep your inbox clean, but wouldn’t it be great if you got less of it to begin with? Read More , at some point or the other, you will probably face an intimidating number of messages in your inbox. And with new communication systems like social networks, instant messengers, and team-oriented chatrooms, there is a case to be made to dump email once and for all.

As with many things in life, listening to successful people who have already accomplished this can offer some insight into whether it will be good for you or not.

Christopher Nolan


The renowned filmmaker behind the Batman trilogy and Inception does not use email for a simple reason.

“I’ve never used email because I don’t find it would help me with anything I’m doing. I just couldn’t be bothered about it,” Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter.


Nolan also went on to say that he doesn’t use mobile phones, as they are a distraction. It’s true: you might be addicted to your smartphone Are You Addicted To Your Smartphone? At one time, landlines and payphones were all we had--and we survived just fine, thank you very much. But now, it’s almost laughable if you don’t own an iPhone or Android, and for some of... Read More . Nolan raises a good point when he says that having a phone is a temptation to stop thinking and start consuming. By freeing himself of that, free time is spent thinking.

And in case he ever needs to make a call, he says, there is always someone around with a phone.

Lindsey Graham


Lindsey Graham went viral recently for the oddest of reasons. Nope, not his announcement to run for U.S. President. On popular political talk show Meet The Press, Graham had this to say:


“I don’t email, no. You can have every email I’ve ever sent. I’ve never sent one.”

Graham’s reasons are simple: he weighs his words. He is wary of the fact that email is a communication technology where you can instantly respond with words you don’t want on record. Instead, he responds to every email by calling the person.

“I’ve tried not to have a system where I can just say the first dumb thing that comes to my mind. I’ve always been concerned,” he told Bloomberg. “I can get texts, and I call you back, if I want. I get a text, and I respond not by sending you a text, but calling you if I think what you asked is worthy enough for me calling you. I’m not being arrogant, but I’m trying to jealously guard myself in terms of being able to think through problems and not engage in chat all day. I’ve had a chance to kind of carve out some time for myself not responding to every 15-second crisis.”

It’s a sound strategy, of course. Former Presidential nominee John McCain also does not use email for fear of saying something he shouldn’t have. Even 140 characters can be a PR disaster How 3 Companies Turned Social Media PR Disasters Into Happy Endings The Internet makes it so easy for customers to get the word out about great businesses they've found and other things they really like. Conversely, it's also quick to promote and pass around evidence of... Read More , so it makes sense to guard what you are putting out there attached to your name. While there are tools to avoid email mistakes Still Getting Spam? 4 Email Mistakes to Avoid Today Avoiding spam is impossible. But there are some lesser known tips, tricks, and secrets that can help you fight the battle against suspicious email. Read More , Graham is simply adopting a “better safe than sorry” approach.


Republican strategist John Feehery put it best: “Politicians used to be taught ‘don’t write if you can say it, don’t say it if you can nod’. ‘Don’t email it’ is the updated version, and a very smart way to avoid embarrassment and possibly jail.”

Julian Assange


Is it a surprise that the man who leaked the world’s confidential emails and secrets does not use email himself? Julian Assange, one of the world’s most famous white hat hackers 5 Of The World’s Most Famous And Most Influential White Hat Hackers In this article, I’m going to jump back to the original definition and explore the world of “good hackers,” otherwise known as “white hat hackers.”Let’s take a look at five of the most influential computer... Read More and the founder of Wikileaks, told Google Chairman Eric Schmidt that he does not use email.

The reason, as you probably guessed, is security.


“(Email is) too dangerous,” Assange said, according to Computer World. “And encrypted email is possibly even worse, because it is such a flag for end point attacks… but we do have encrypting phones. Unfortunately they don’t work in all countries, but the SMSs work in all countries.”

In a broader sense, Assange is absolutely right. Yes, there are secure and encrypted email providers The 5 Most Secure and Encrypted Email Providers Fed up with government and third-party surveillance of your emails? Protect your messages with a secure encrypted email service. Read More who guard your messages more zealously than, say, Gmail or Outlook. However, they are still not equipped to guarantee 100% security. In fact, as we have argued already, email simply cannot be protected from government surveillance Why Email Can't Be Protected From Government Surveillance “If you knew what I know about email, you might not use it either,” said the owner of secure email service Lavabit as he recently shut it down. "There is no way to do encrypted... Read More without stringent laws to that effect.

John Paul Dejoria

If you handle one of the world’s largest tequila brands, one of the world’s largest hair care and styling companies, and are a renowned philanthropist, you must need email, right? Wrong. John Paul Dejoria prefers an email-free life.

“If I had email, I would be inundated. I choose not to use computers,” Dejoria tells Inc. magazine. “I’d rather make a phone call to you or write you a letter, and communicate with you the way you deserve to be communicated with.”

His entire approach to email comes down to a simple formula, which we would all do well to implement:

“Pay attention to the vital few, ignore the trivial many.”

In the interview above, he explains how he set up a system of delegation whereby he is able to cut out email in a way where his communication is entirely on phones or letters now. It won’t be easy to emulate this if you aren’t at an executive level, but there are some good points in there.

Is Email Obsolete or Outdated?


Let’s face it, for most of us, email isn’t going anywhere yet. It still remains an integral part of digital communication, so it is definitely not obsolete. However, it is outdated in certain ways.

For companies and teams, email is no longer the ideal form of communication. IBM has slowly weaned off it, so much so that some of its employees are completely email-free now.

Email also has time-bound restrictions that make it necessary to create a second storage or bulletin board for important messages. Former WordPress executive Scott Berkun writes in Fast Company, “Email decays over time. If someone writes a great e-mail, an employee has to do something to preserve it. Otherwise it sits in an inbox, hidden from new employees. Over time, that organizational knowledge fades away.”

And of course, the most prevalent criticism of email is that it is too impersonal. Bishop Tobin of The Rhode Island Catholic writes, “I avoid email at the office because I’m convinced that it’s often used, ironically, to avoid real conversation and dialogue. Emails are sterile, they’re distancing, and they’re off-putting. Some people write things in emails that they’d never say face-to-face to a family member or co-worker. And emails aren’t always as efficient as advocates pretend them to be.”

Lessons to Learn from Email Cutters


While cutting email out entirely is an extreme step, there are still some good points raised by these people which you can easily apply in your email-filled life to make it a more fulfilling experience.

  1. Stop checking email constantly. Make time for yourself.
  2. Don’t respond immediately. While you can’t control when you get an email, you do control when you reply to it. Give yourself time to think. The first question to ask is, “If this wasn’t an email, would I still reply to it?”
  3. Pay attention to the vital few, ignore the trivial many
  4. Where possible, use a more personal form of communication. If you can meet the person or talk to them on the phone, do that.

Do You Want to Ditch Email?

Have you thought about ditching email for good, or actually done it? What are the obstacles in going email-free? Let’s talk in the comments!

And we also want to hear from the champions of email, those who consider it vital to their daily life. Why do you prefer email over other forms of communication?

Image credits: mtkang / Shutterstock.com, charlieanders2 / Flickr, Gage Skidmore / Flickr, HebiPics / Pixabay, kropekk_pl / Pixabay

Related topics: Email Tips, Stress Management.

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  1. plrmerchandise
    September 15, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    You can then customize the product or the content of the product and use it in a variety of ways.

  2. BenArnold
    November 21, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Excellent article, and the comments section made it even better, said exactly what I was looking for, thanks Mihir Patkar for creating a great discussion. Personally I hate all forms of communication, because of the difficulties and risks, however my question was whether or not email will die anytime soon, and I'm seeing by what I've researched online which includes this article and comments that email will be around as long as chat rooms which also seem to have died according to the media but just like email in reality have lived on behind the scenes and in a great part are still be used widely and heavily. It's my suspicion that social networks have become a temporary source of fun but really are nothing more than glorified emails and chat rooms and eventually will destroy themselves because of over complicating it and not fully understanding the animals that they're trying to control.

  3. Anonymous
    July 22, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    Ditch email and talk on the phone or in person? What is this, the middle ages?

    Spoken information is lost and forgotten the second the speaker closes his/her mouth, can't be referenced in the future and lacks accountability.
    "When did he placed that order?", "I know she asked for 7 things, what was the seventh?" "What specs did he say that he needed?"
    Have you tried to copy and paste some information told verbally?

    Written communication also should promote thinking before writing, often getting people to answer themselves when reading what they are asking.

    No thanks. Let me keep using email for professional and most personal matters, and keep verbal comunnication wher it belongs, in casual conversation.

    • Mihir Patkar
      July 30, 2015 at 6:50 am

      I'm with you, I prefer written communication over verbal too. But it's interesting to note that several successful people avoid it as much as possible. Food for thought.

      • Anonymous
        July 30, 2015 at 4:25 pm

        "several successful people avoid [email] as much as possible"
        Easy: the more successful people are, the more likely they have a email-managing staff.

        • BenArnold
          November 21, 2015 at 11:31 am

          Genius comments! Thank you Federico Duran for helping me see the reality behind it all. That's exactly what I suspected but my mind was grasping for words and couldn't formulate it as well as you said it. You answered all of my questions, exactly what I was suspecting, about this subject. It's true. And I think these few people, a small handful of all the geniuses out there, are truly among the eccentric ones, or in other words truly rare, not representative of the great majority, or like you insinuated, living a life that's beyond typical. In the real world everybody has no choice, even as this article pointed out as in the case of employees as opposed to executives, but to use email.

    • Awang Selamat
      January 16, 2016 at 1:36 am

      "When did he place the order?"
      "What was the seventh item ?"
      "What specs did he need ?"
      All these details could be had with proper online order form.
      No emails needed ...

      • Fik of borg
        January 16, 2016 at 2:05 am

        A proper online order form is just another form of electronic written communication, it is not operationally different from email: information gets recorded in and referenced from a database, as opposed of verbal communication. It even could be thought as "preformatted email"

  4. Anonymous
    July 9, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Being anti-email says far more about just how daft a person is... more than anything bad about the medium.

    • Mihir Patkar
      July 30, 2015 at 6:51 am

      I think that's an extreme opinion. And I can't imagine any of the aforementioned people being termed "daft".

  5. Anonymous
    July 9, 2015 at 1:43 am

    First, Assange isn't a white-hat hacker. In fact, he isn't, far as I know, a hacker at all. He got the leaked emails and other documents from sources within the organization.

    Second, ComputerWorld is spelled as one word.

    • Anonymous
      July 20, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      As far as the record goes, the Australian, Julian Assange was/is a hacker, a white or possibly gray hat hacker. He was arrested in 1991 and charged for 31 counts of hacking crimes that he committed between 1987 to 1991. He was operating under the screen name Mendax. He pleaded guilty for 25 crimes, served his sentences, and paid a penalty before he took this path.

      Correct me if the records were wrong.. :)

    • Mihir Patkar
      July 30, 2015 at 6:54 am

      •When Assange turned 16, he began hacking computers, reportedly assuming the name Mendax — from the Latin splendide mendax, or "nobly untruthful."

      •In 1991, at the age of 20, Assange and some fellow hackers broke into the master terminal of Nortel, the Canadian telecom company. He was caught and pleaded guilty to 25 charges; six other charges were dropped. Citing Assange's "intelligent inquisitiveness," the judge sentenced him only to pay the Australian state a small sum in damages.

      Source: http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2006496,00.html

  6. Anonymous
    July 7, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    It's interesting that politicians eschew email not because it takes time, but because they are terrified of having what they say come back to them in a bad way.

    • Mihir Patkar
      July 30, 2015 at 6:55 am

      I know, right? And here we all are, blabbing away on social networks with a half-assed opinion about things we don't know enough about :D (Not that I'm going to change that about myself, mind you)

  7. Anonymous
    July 7, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Email is going to be around for me for a long time because of some old school contacts who will not change anytime soon. That being said, I still check my email daily for newsletters, shopping offers, etc. I enjoy my daily from MakeUseOf! I would say most, if not all businesses have an email address. I have been using sms for about a year now for basic texting but still use email to send attachments. As far as email being impersonal as opposed to a handwritten letter, bullpucky. I'd rather receive a typed email than a handwritten letter that is illegible, like my brother's handwriting.

    • Mihir Patkar
      July 30, 2015 at 6:55 am

      Yay, MUO newsletter reader!

  8. Anonymous
    July 7, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    As far as I'm concerned, E-mail should be the primary form of communication. I really don't care what an anti-science politician thinks or wants. I'd say that Lindsey Graham's pride at being a technophobe speaks to a larger issue about his ability to communicate with his constituents and how well he might or probably doesn't represent them.
    By the same token, being a notorious fugitive from justice or wealthy enough to pay others to deal with the minutia of communication are not representative of normal human lives.

    One of the central advantages of E-mail is that it's not tied to a specific location or to a specific device. E-mail is universal. If Facebook is down, Email still works. If my phone's screen is broken (or if I don't have a phone capable of accepting SMS), I still have E-mail. I can communicate quickly and precisely and I can do so in such a way that I have a record of the conversation. These are all advantages, whether four short-sighted people believe them to be so or not.

    • Mihir Patkar
      July 30, 2015 at 6:56 am

      "One of the central advantages of E-mail is that it’s not tied to a specific location or to a specific device. E-mail is universal. If Facebook is down, Email still works."

      This is a fantastic point. "Email" doesn't go down. An email service might.