email bankruptcy
n. The state of being unable or unwilling to read and respond to all the email messages one has received, and so to delete those messages and start over again.
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Last month, venture capitalist Fred Wilson drew a lot of attention on the Internet when he declared a 21st century kind of bankruptcy. In a posting on his blog about technology, Wilson announced he was giving up on responding to all the e-mail piled up in his inbox.

"I am so far behind on e-mail that I am declaring bankruptcy," he wrote. "If you've sent me an e-mail (and you aren't my wife, partner, or colleague), you might want to send it again. I am starting over." …

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.
—Mike Musgrove, “E-Mail Reply to All: 'Leave Me Alone',” The Washington Post, May 25, 2007
These, believe it or not, are not the e-mail messages that clog up our inbox, which at the time of writing this column is overflowing with 1,400 messages. The spam is easy to identify and delete — in fact, Microsoft Outlook does most of the hard work for us.

No, the bigger problem is all of the legitimate e-mail messages we receive: notes from the Get Ahead bosses, questions from readers, press releases, story ideas, PR pitches, company memos and the occasional love letter from our adoring fans.

It's hardly surprising, then, that we're attracted to the concept of e-mail bankruptcy. To declare e-mail bankruptcy, you delete every single message in your inbox and start from scratch.
—Dave Simanoff, “Get Ahead Stay Ahead,” Tampa Tribune, May 07, 2007
2002 (earliest)
Perhaps there is such a thing as too much e-mail, and too much of the pressure, not to mention the guilt, that goes with it.

Dr. Turkle said that in her research on people's relationship with computation, she hears more and more about a fantasy she calls "e-mail bankruptcy," a fantasy that she sometimes shares.

"In my case," she said, "when I feel that 'doing my e-mail' is taking me away from the people and the work that I care about, I might declare bankruptcy."
—Constance Rosenblum, “In Lost E-Mail, a Dividend,” The New York Times, February 14, 2002
Copyright wonk (and Wired columnist) Lawrence Lessig hit upon a novel tactic after spending 80 hours trying to clear out his backlogged inbox: surrender. "Bankruptcy is now my only option," he wrote in a mass message to his correspondence creditors. Here's how Lessig erased his debts and turned over a new leaf.

1) Collect the email addresses of everyone you haven't replied to. Paste them into the BCC field of a new message you'll send to yourself.

2) Write a polite note explaining your predicament. Apologize profusely - Lessig managed five mea culpas in as many paragraphs - and promise to keep up with your email in the future. Try to sound credible.

3) Ask for a resend of anything particularly pressing, and offer to give such messages special attention.
—“Declare Email Bankruptcy,” Wired, August 01, 2006
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