Email Is For Old People

I happened to stumble back onto the Pew Internet Report on teens and technology from July 2005 that report that told us “87% of [US children] between the ages of 12 and 17 are online.” But the part I’d missed before regarded how these teens were using communication technology:

Email, once the cutting edge “killer app,” is losing its privileged place among many teens as they express preferences for instant messaging (IM) and text messaging [SMS] as ways to connect with their friends.

To them, email is increasingly seen as a tool for communicating with “adults” such as teachers, institutions like schools, and as a way to convey lengthy and detailed information to large groups. Meanwhile, IM is used for everyday conversations with multiple friends that range from casual to more serious and private exchanges.

It is also used as a place of personal expression. Through buddy icons or other customization of the look and feel of IM communications, teens can express and differentiate themselves. Other instant messaging tools allow for the posting of personal profiles, or even “away” messages, durable signals posted when a user is away from the computer but wishes to remain connected to their IM network.

Interesting. Connect that with a 2004 Korean study of student’s communication practices that revealed more than two-thirds of the 2,000 respondents “rarely use or don’t use e-mail at all.” Why?

…it’s impossible to tell whether an addressee has received a message right away and replies are not immediately forthcoming. […] “The new generation hate agonizing and waiting and tend to express their feelings immediately,” said Professor Lee. “The decline of email is a natural outcome reflecting such characteristics of the new generation.”

Interesting. American teens say email is for old people, Korean high-school and college students say it’s too slow, and UNH‘s students tells us they chat away an average of 9.3 hours a week in AIM.

aim, aol instant messenger, communication, im, instant messaging, instant messenger, short message service, sms, technology, teens, the death of email, youth

4 thoughts on “Email Is For Old People

  1. I think the question here is, why did anyone use email in the first place? It’s inherently delayed, faceless, and has a tendency to get ‘lost.’ In other words, useless for business, where the hard copy is what counts and immediacy is the name of the game. And for the casual user? Even before AIM, before computers, there was the telephone, a miraculous device, well over 100 years old, which allowed people to convey most of the nuance and inflection of face-to-face communication in real time. Since any recipient can easily delete and deny receiving an unwanted message via email (cf. why people hate voicemail, telephony’s doppleganger), neither the phone nor email is a good way to record something permanently. Honestly, I think email probably survived because computer geeks thought it was neat at first, and heaven knows geeks love their esoterica. Then ‘normal’ people, worried what all the fuss was about, figured they should have an email address too, and the whole stupid structure’s been getting propped up by stagnant methodologies in, yes, the ‘middle-age’ sector of the computing market.

    [tags]telephone, phone email, e-mail, AIM[/tags]

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  3. Email is inherently useful for the right applications – just as fax, telephone, voicemail, mobiles, im, sms, snail mail, and even pagers (for emergency services and people working near explosives) are.

    People are just so het upon using one type of technology, real life tells us that the way forward is to use the right tool for the right job.

    Nothing can replace email for me sending a spreadsheet of data on bird numbers to someone in Scotland, for sending photographs with a narration to someone, who doesn’t need to be there in order to receive the information, in order to relate detailed information (personal or business) in which people can respond or consider within their own timeframe, and can edit and return. (IM and other forms of fileshareing don’t achieve these objectives, and aren’t available or easily useable for most people – whereas email is used much more.

    Nothing can replace a 2 minute conference call to arrange a meeting between 5 synchronous people who may not all have the same (or any) calendering systems.

    Nothing can replace a phone call for synchronous personal communication to a long lost relative.

    Nothing can replace a fax or telex for immediacy, urgency, likelihood of being viewed, proof of receipt, resultant legal strength, ubiquitousness of technology (for example in locations where there is no, or intermittent net connections – such as a developing country, or a ship), and lack of expense.

    Nothing can replace snail mail for sending a box of chocolates, a handwritten letter, some photographs and some pressed flowers to a long distant friend or relative.

    Nothing can replace sms if you’re late for an important engagement, stuck on a train with barely any credit, and the person you need to contact is in a meeting.

    Nothing can replace a pager for use in sending urgent message to doctors, police, workers who are underground or near explosives, workers for rail companies, coastguards, or otherwise out of reach of a mobile (for safety reasons, or by way of being out of range, or intermittently out of range).

    IM is certainly the least ‘necessary’ of those technologies – though obviously very useful, especially for those responding to the research – possibly because of their particular lifestyle, and the lack of expense if they are living on/in an institution with free internet connection and have an always-on pc. It doesn’t suit the majority of the population though, and the research neglects to mention that the majority of people of that age group in the world, even in a country like the uk, do not have the lifestyles of the students who were questioned.

    [tags]email, pager, im, communications[/tags]

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