Email Thursday – Will Social Media Take Over Email?



Do you remember writing letters to people? You know, the time way back when you would bust out a pen, a piece of college ruled paper and then track down an envelope and a stamp anticipating the day -1 week later- when the recipient would open your letter and read your words. Ahh, the good old days. And the 90’s weren’t even that long ago. But now? Now, nobody writes letters anymore. Heck, you’re luck to get a physical card on your birthday from someone under the age of 70. Hallmark cards online are free. Stores charge $4.95. Your Great Aunt Beatrice must really like you. Either that or she’s techno-challenged.

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No, this is not another of my pointless diatribes where I ramble on for hours on end about the general demise of civility and why people can’t even thank you when you hold the door for them. No, this is about email and although it may not seem that way, I’ll get to my point eventually. Back to my story.

The 90’s were great, don’t get me wrong. But something happened in that decade… something that changed the course of all of our lives and was the tipping point for an entirely new, never-before-seen and still to this day not completely understood phenomonon: electronic communications. Sure, we had the phone. But that was SOOO 1940’s. This new technology was different; this new technology stood before us and in the time it takes to transfer a byte over a standard 10 foot twisted pair ethernet cable, everything changed.

And Then… There Was Email

And that was cool. Email ruled the school yard like that 5th grader with a pituitary issue. It was instant, it was personal, it was simply awesome. First adopted by geeks of all ages, then college kids and Prodigy and AOL users… soon, everyone had a Rocketmail or Compuserve address and was sending emails over 56k modems.

Fast forward 10 years… a young, restless Harvard freshman creates a system where he and his fellow classmates/dropouts could keep in touch with each other all at once. And BAM… social media is born. Like kennel cough at a hoarder’s house, social media swept through the internet and picked up almost every teenager and twenty-something along the way. There was Myspace, Blogs, Feeedburner, Stumbleupon and, of course, Facebook. Even my parents have facebook accounts and my Aunt’s Friends comment on how cute my dog is. In comes social, out goes privacy.

So now that we’re all tweeting, checking-in and digging, is there even room for email? Now that status updates and instant tweets give us up-to-the-minute stats, is there even a need for email? With companies now asking for mobile phone numbers to send text messages and IM’s, do we even need email for social purposes? Is the medium now relegated to the realm of the business world and doomed to live on through attachments and Out Of Office replies?

Not even close. Although many believe that social media will take over email in the near future, this is simply not the case. Email is here for the long haul and is constantly being tested, vetted and improved. Just last week, Gmail rolled out a “priority inbox” feature that uses smart technology to pre-filter your messages and gives priority to people you communicate with the most. Hotmail? It’s how “the new busy” get things done. Email integrated with RSS feeds, search history, news updates, and even status updates from all your favorite social networks.

But where’s the proof? How do you know that email isn’t dead? Simple. What is the one thing you need to sign up for a Twitter, Facebook or Flickr account? And how do they reach you if there’s an issue with the service or if they want feedback? And how do they reset your password? With an email address, of course.