I can't quite remember exactly when email became such a nuisance in my life, but it must have been a long time ago now since I can barely remember it not being a nuisance anymore. I think I got my first (AOL) email address in 1994. Then, the familiar modem-screeching and you've got mail! alert were the soundtrack to a new life, a new Digital Age, about which hardly anyone understood very much. Today, of course, we take constant connection (and the constant surveillance that comes along with it) to be an indisputable (even if not "natural) fact of the human condition. We parse increasingly fine distinctions between our meatspace selves and our digital personae. We carry around instant access to the equivalent of a million Libraries of Alexandria in our pockets, or at least those of us who are "connected" do. And those of us who are connected find it almost impossible to disconnect.
I can still not answer my phone, of course, but refusing to take a call these days doesn't accomplish the same thing that it did in my pre-digital life. Because of caller ID, the caller always knows that I know s/he called. Because of voicemail, s/he can still communicate with me, and s/he can still maintain a reasonable expectation for an acknowledgment or reply. The same goes for the relationship between snail mail and email. I open snail mail even less often than I answer my phone, and it's relatively easy to just throw away that unopened mail once a day. Not so with email. Spam-filter all you want, but you still can't get away from maddeningly regular accumulation of emails that maddeningly insist on acknowledgment or reply.