An insightful article on Slate.com (Chad Lorenz, “The Death of E-Mail,” 11/14/07) analyzes the way in which under 20s are increasingly abandoning e-mail in favor of more instant means of communication.
And Lorenz is no old fogy whining about the young-uns: he's in his 20's. But he’s dismayed at the way in which teenagers are switching off from e-mail. As he writes: “According to a 2005 Pew study, almost half of Web-using teenagers prefer to chat with friends via instant messaging rather than e-mail. Last year, comScore reported that teen e-mail use was down 8 percent, compared with a 6 percent increase in e-mailing for users of all ages. As mobile phones and sites like Twitter and Facebook have become more popular, those old Yahoo! and Hotmail accounts increasingly lie dormant.”
Lorenx points out that among the teens he surveyed informally, most “signed in to IM or Facebook from the time they get home from classes until they turn out the lights.”
As he points out, just as even older users have become addicted to e-mail connectivity, a whole new generation has gone way past that. What will be interesting to watch is how all this works out when that generation hits a workplace now dependent on e-mails.
As Lorenz points out, it looks like the oldsters will have to follow in the wake of the kids, as more and more adults are being pulled into the Facebook world. And as cell phones get smarter and smarter, all of us are going to have to become expert at more modes of interaction. “You can now send and receive every kind of message—texts, IMs, e-mails, and Facebook posts—with most new mobile phones.”
For all of us who seem to spend too much of our workday sorting through e-mails and being pestered by colleagues we don’t respond fast enough to, the onslaught is just beginning.