Email is Dead. Long Live Email.

So…I’ve been toying with the idea of the death of email for a little while now. The tendency of Gen Y (and younger) digital users to text much more frequently than send email and the massive adoption of alternative social media platforms has caused a major shift in the way we exchange information.

Not only is the content of our communications becoming shorter, but the methods we use to exchange that content are rapidly evolving (see FacebookTumblrTwitter, PosterousWave). In just the little focus group / microcosm of my immediate family, I’ve watched my (relatively technophobic) wife slowly accept email as a communication method over the past 15 years, only to quickly do away with it over the past few for much more frequent and real-time exchanges with friends and family via Facebook and instant and text messages. And I’d rather not go into the details of the 12,000 text messages in one month (!) by my 13-year-old.

The past several years have given us an extremely rapid rise in use of mobile devices and social networking platforms, and with that rise users have been rapidly increasing the volume of communication via those channels. For a large group of users, this correlates to less frequent use of email as conversations switch to venues such as Facebook inboxes.

However, this is not always the way it works out. Adding to the case for information overload, it seems that quite often these new channels of communication have an additive effect with our old channels. Personally, I can attest that although my email volume has lessened a bit (except for the spam, of course), my overall volume of communication has increased significantly as I tweet, blog and tumbl.

So, what’s next? The title of this post notwithstanding, email isn’t going away any time soon, but for more and more people (particularly those of certain demographics) short text and social media communications will become the norm. For many of us, it’s just that much more content from which to separate the signal from the noise. Consolidated inboxes (Wave, Raindrop) may provide some relief, but the jury’s still out.

So, what do you think? Has your email volume dropped as you’ve embraced more of the Web 2.0 / social media communication channels? How are you dealing with the increase in volume and diversity in your communication methods? How are your customers dealing with it?


  1. No, my email volume has not dropped. I think what we need to remember is that email is simply a different type of media. You do not use Twittter in the same way you would use Facebook, but Facebook has not died because of the use Twitter. Similarly, we still use the postal service although we use email as well. What is different is how we use each medium.

    Email has become more of a formal type of exchange, used in businesses for transactions, communication, networking, and the hiring process. From what we have seen, you simply need to realize what type of message you want to send, and choose the medium afterward. We have a myriad of choices to communicate, it’s a matter of learning which option is the most appropriate.

    • Great feedback, Lori. I would have to agree with you that our potential methods of communications have greatly increased and, as a result, we must appropriately choose the methods we use depending on the audience, formality, etc.

      However, you mention the postal service – what are your thoughts about their slow and painful death, and how it may be foreshadowing (however distant) for other “outmoded” methods of communication. You don’t see too many people using the telegraph or western union these days…

  2. This is true, Tom. As new mediums come along, older mediums need to adopt and change or their usefulness will stop. Some will die or be replaced, but it is not a simple transition. It also depends on other events in our lives and what large corporations support. These factors have great effects on what medium we choose to use.

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