Email Is For Old People?

from the get-with-the-program dept

A few years ago, we pointed to a report in Asia, where kids were saying that email was for old people, and they were more focused on things like text messaging. This may have just been foreshadowing a larger trend, highlight by an article in Slate about how, just as older generations have embraced emails, kids have moved on to many different forms of communication from instant messaging to text messaging to private messaging through social networks to broadcast messaging through Twitter and Facebook news feeds. And, while it worries the reporter a bit, he’s come to accept it and realize that kids are simply figuring out the best, most efficient way to communicate different messages — where email as a one-size-fits-all communication system is a bit clunky. That’s not to say that email is going away any time soon — but that it’s not nearly as important a communication tool as many “older” people seem to assume it is.

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Comments on “Email Is For Old People?”

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Anon (user link) says:

It's like Casettes

Casettes are a very old technology now, and have been surpassed by many other forms of listening to music on the go, though they still remain in use and are still part of many players.

Even if kids move onto these different forms of communication, eMail isn’t going anywhere because it was there in the beginning, and is just as integral – if not more so – now than ever.

Plus, eMail has stayed extremely populsar, while these other forms come and go. They may hold interest for some time, but they don’t seem to be removing anything from eMails, just adding to communications as a whole.

A 25 Year Old Kid says:

Re: It's like Casettes

Well I wouldn’t say it’s like cassettes, I don’t think I have seen or heard a cassette in about 10 years myself. Can you even buy cassettes from a store that aren’t from a dollar clearance bin? I would say that digital media has successfully replaced the cassette where as text messaging and instant messaging is providing a compliment to Email. I think the context of this article is getting it all wrong, as it would be impossible to replace email with instant messaging from a business perspective, but it makes a great compliment.

Anonymous Coward says:

God, I’m old now. 28 years old, work in the tech field, and I can’t stand any of the tools just listed. Text Messaging is okay in theory, but it isn’t a guarenteed instant delivery. Which is the most important use for a tool like it, without that its dead to me. Instant Messaging just annoys the hell out of me because its so irreverant in its subject matter. If I’m going to be interupted doing something, I want it to actually be about something that matters to me. Broadcast messaging is okay for news feeds, but as a social networking tool.. it simply adds in too much cludge that I need to wade through to get to anything that matters. Email though.. Email is still relevant. Maybe I’m not hip and stylish, but I never have a problem figuring out what bar I’m supposed to show up to; and I probably have a much better idea of what my little social circle of friends are because I still rely on face time and interaction than whatever people decide to throw up on their blog or try to fit into a text message. Kids really need to learn that while technology is spiffy, and can interesting and a-lot of fun, its practically useless as a social networking tool. The more time I spend around technology, the more time I want to spend the hell away from technology. I still find it fun and interesting, but I crave disconnect time more than anything else in the world.

Jean-Marc Liotier (user link) says:

Email is open

Kids may prefer other forms of communications, but they forget about the most important thing : email is open. Chose any technology, chose any provider or be your own provider – any way you do it you are still connected to the whole world. If you have the slightest understanding of your own interest, then there is no way you are going to even consider using a closed platform as your primary mean of communication.

That said, the other ways to communicate may achieve the same goal of openness. Jabber is already there, and that is the only IM protocol I use. Maybe Opensocial will take us there some day. Until then I keep a foothold on big social platforms, but just to keep my foothold in the namespace.

Open is everything – the rest is details. That is what brought me to the Internet fifteen years ago.

Anonymous Coward says:

To be fair, what is a more efficient method for communicating “I AM WATCHING TELEVISION” or “I JUST TOOK A POOP AND IT STANK UP THE BATHROOM” than through something like twitter? It’s too frivolous for an email.

But likewise, am I going to communicate an action plan or discuss something with a customer via AIM or twitter or myspace? Fuck no. IM is for instant communication. Twitter is for pointless, self-involved drivel. Myspace is for idiots who want to consoladate their entire internet experience into a single website (and a single point of failure) just like the good old BBS days, before they were born —- and email is for people who need to convey important information, delicate information, detailed information or otherwise engage in an actual conversation.

I use IM constantly in my line of work. I’m a developer and our entire company of 45,000 people globally requires that everyone use our own developed commercial messenger (uses XMPP, much like jabber and is for all intents and purposes — jabber). Most of my colleagues are not even within driving distance. And even if they were, a lot of us telecommute full time. So IM is absolutely a necessity.

But for every IM message, there are a few dozen email messages. Whether it’s discussions on an internal list or another. Whether it’s communicating with customers or field engineers or team discussions and management discussions to touch base or regarding staffing or action plans.

So yes, young people may just use twitter, IM and myspace today . . . but if they plan to ever have discussions that go beyond what color their crap was and what they’re doing at that very instant (OH MY GOD, WE’RE ALL EAGERLY AWAITING YOUR NEXT TWITTER!) and beyond self-involved attention-whoring on myspace or trying to get off with some loser on instant messaging, they’ll eventually find themselves forced to gravitate toward email. And if they don’t – they’ll be shark food for the rest of us in the workforce.

mjd says:

Exactly A.C

FB and the like are only good for ignorant kids to tell each other how many ringtones they’ve just downloaded and share their happy slapping videos. Email is a vital tool for business and many other interesting projects and ventures. Only an idiot would think of talking to clients over facebook or think they could have any kind of effective communication on twitter.

I use email to make a living and work on projects which excite and inspire me. If that makes me old then hand me my bus pass.

Luke says:

Re: old comments

Wow so narrow minded people!!!
How about you get with the times and use facebook to get your business in the faces of your customers?
Slowly but surely people will realise that facebook etc is a great tool for businesses to tell people about there products. There’s millions of people using it after all.
Alot of commenters on here are the typical “old” people at work who expect to be promoted just because there old but dont instead the younger staff get the job.

Riprap says:

popular doesn't mean useful

Just because something is described as *popular* doesn’t mean that it is more vital or useful than other technologies. Doritos are more popular with kids than veggies, but try as they might, they can’t live on them (for long).

IM, Twitter, etc are popular, sure. But email is the foundation and core of online communications.

SilverSurfer says:

Get a job

Coming from someone who has a job in the IT industry, email is king. It provides an audit trail when used properly. There is no way any company could exist on IM alone. Also, by virtue of email taking a little more effort to send you are less likely to get as many emails as you would IMs. If someone has to send 5 IMs for every 1 email to get a message across, that is inefficent. Also, if you are IMing that much, you might as well pick up the phone and call.

that guy says:

I think we are all missing the analogy to email versus letters. When email first came about, very few businesses used it and it took a long time for emails to become formal methods of communication. I wouldn’t be surprised if in ten or twenty years everyone has a phone that can read long text messages that are as formal as emails are today.

That said, I totally agree with most of the posts that text messaging is for pointless communication. I only use email. I’m only 23 and all of sudden I feel old.

Qswitch says:

History doesn't repeat, but it does rhyme

I’m not old, I’m ancient. Elm, Pine, BBS, Compu$erve… The USPS is a closed system, designed and operated by the Feds. EMail took some time to grow organically from the tech elite and supplant snail mail, but open source networking has shortened development time exponentially.

Hang onto and proselytize old technology at your own peril…

Geoff (user link) says:

Firstly, I think “articles” about stuff like this generally miss the point completely and exaggerate.

Secondly, almost every comment here has just confirmed what the article said. Kid’s supposedly think e-mail is for old people. And all of the commenters (who I presume to be older) are saying they use e-mail all of the time — to talk to clients. How many kids do you know with clients?

While I’m not considered old by any means at 23, I rarely use e-mail outside of my job. Also, I have never discussed what color my crap was on either of the social networks I use to communicate with my friends. I think the idea that only 16-year-olds with poor taste in music and colors use social networks is a gross overstatement. I use both Facebook and MySpace for the sole purpose of communicating with friends out of state easily as well as my in-town friends when coordinating events like birthday parties or a night out on the town.

I suppose I’ve also supported the article by essentially stating that these new veins are more efficient ways to communicate for some people.

Just Me says:


What’s with all this Facebook bashing? Sure email is integral to the survival of pretty much every business out there – that was never questioned.
But FB (which I use regularly at 25) also fills a nice little niche in that you can keep in touch with a lot of people in a convenient manner. It’s simple, free and (if everyone you know is on there) pretty well all-inclusive.

Will it replace email, no. Will social networking sites be going anywhere soon, no (on the whole, individual sites will come and go).
It may not be for everyone, and for some it is used as crap communication, but I use it as a tool to keep in touch with family and friends and be able to organize events in a way that no other technology out there right now can do.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Huh?

Yeah, I’m often mystified by the bashing of Facebook. I wonder if people just get MySpace and Facebook confused…

For me (at 32), Facebook has proven an excellent way of keeping in touch with friends as well as locating old friends I lost touch with. I’ve only received one unsolicited friend request (from a guy with the same name so I assume it was a Dave Gorman style prank), and I find the site pretty clean and very unobtrusive. So, it’s a great site and I don’t run into the inane teen chatter as I don’t go into the groups and other sections where they happen.

Compare that with MySpace, with its eyeball-scouring layouts and a truly vocal group of teenagers running the show. True, Facebook isn’t a tool for business, but I doubt that business was the kind of thing the kids surveyed were thinking about when answering the questions.

Jordan says:

Email IS for old people

Old people are more familiar with written or typed (typewriter) letters. They are impressed by how fast an email gets from one place to another. It is fast compared to “snail mail”, but not compared to the other forms of communication. The problem with email is that you have to check it. If you are the type of person who checks their email religiously every half hour, then its great, but if you have a life, or a phone without email support, you may not get the email for a day or two. Instant messaging is much more efficient if you are at your computer. Text messaging (if you can spell your words and not seem like a dumbass), is probably the most efficient aside from calling the person. They get the message almost instantly, but have time to respond if they are busy and it isn’t urgent.

KM 459 says:

Re: Email IS for old people

Jordan: You just made the greatest case for email.

Text messages and IMs are, quite frankly, annoying as hell. They are highly inefficient, as they tend to interrupt whatever you were doing, thereby draining all productivity. Email, on the other hand, you can check when you want, reply when it’s convenient, and spend the rest of your time actually getting things done.

Personally, I have a very difficult time with IM. It’s stressful. It completely takes away from the main joy of email – the fact that you can communicate, and also take your time, be sure that you’re saying what you want to say, and reply when it’s convenient, without pressure. There are a lot of comments in here that IM and text will replace email someday – this sounds like a nightmare world to me.

And that’s not even counting the fact that at least half of the emails I receive and send involve getting files back and forth.

Ryan (profile) says:

the reason

The reason email is important to old people and not to young people revolves around what they communicate about.

Email is important to those who have jobs. Young people don’t have jobs. They don’t need to send files to each other, or confidential information, or anything like that.

There will never come a day when somebody says “did you get those financial estimates? I sent them as a bulletin on MySpace.”

For business related and confidential matters, email will always be the preferred tool.

TheDock22 says:


I do admit I use email for most of my day-to-day communications because it is a vital tool for businesses. Why would I want a customer looking at my Facebook account just to look up an invoice? Email is still the simplest and most powerful tool businesses have.

Now as far as personal communications goes, MySpace and Facebook are a great tool. I can reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Also, if I want to update something about my life or add pictures, I just do it once and all my friend know about it and can figure out what’s going on. Its quick and easier. I also text from my phone because I got a new one with a qwerty layout and just LOVE the thing. Also I have been using IM for ages, at least since I was in grade school.

So I think the assumption email is for old people is wrong. I would say, email is for businesses and these other tools are for personal use.

Antje Wilsch (user link) says:

wait until they have jobs

When I was younger, I thought that no way would I ever WRITE a letter to someone. How lame was that (i thought). Now that I actually have a job, a mortgage, a family, I do business and (gasp) couldn’t live without letters and — email. Can you imagine trying to do business via IM or pinging people thru a social network? Totally ridiculous. The behaviour mechanism of IM and social networks is not conducive to proper business. The formalities of letters and emails are required for business. So, just wait until these kids have jobs.

JRM_GreyBeard says:

e-mail and its complements

I do not currently use IM, but I have found it very useful when participating in video / phone conferences for maintaining a real-time side channel for synchronizing among my associates, who were attending.

Otherwise, I think its immediacy is too distracting. Given the corporate need for record keeping and accountability, users are a bit better served by taking a minute or so to compose their response — it may be viewed in much different circumstances later.

What the young-uns don’t realize is that the bits they send into the ether may live for a long time. Don’t say anything that you aren’t prepared to stand by, either attached to your resume or displayed with your other family issues 20 years later. If you would find your behavior embarrassing when your kids bring it up 20 years later, don’t document and publicize it.

chill says:

E-mail and IM

I held some focus groups over the summer where we interviewed 15-25YROs in the States about methods of communication. We found a strong correlation between e-mail use and age. But the correlation with age was less about whether someone was using a new technology as a replacement versus something that has been around. It was about working. Everyone that was working, which were most of the 21-25yros (post college, high school) were all using e-mail very heavily (and the other forms of communication). The high schoolers were using SMS and the social networks exclusively. Very few used IM.

IMO. There is a place for SMS and e-mail and other forms of commuication – they offer choice and flexibility. Although most of the States are still getting clued into SMS. But IM disappears. SMS and Social networking technologies replace it or relegate it to inside the corporate firewalls.

Chris says:

Texting will replace email, period.

IM is just a form of text messaging, it’s used for short, concise transfers of information. Email is great when you need to put down a paragraph of info, but who reads every line of there emails, business or pleasure? If anyone has been paying attention, I believe there was an article out a few weeks ago about how smartphones are outselling laptops. The reason? Well think about it, who besides those that are tech savy use a laptop for anything other than surfing the net and checking email? Not many.

Texting will replace email, period. It’s faster and more portable and always will be because not everyone is going to carry around a laptop with them. Smartphones are great but there will never be an efficient way to write a lengthy email using a smartphone. Game set match.

Chris says:

Oh and I am a kid and have a white collar job at a large corporation that did 15 billion in sales last year. Email is also to easy to ignore where as a phone call or text can’t be. Sure I’ve never used text for work, but i’ve also never hand written anything since beginning my career post college. Most work is done via phone conversations, meetings, or the intranet which whether you like it or not is a social network, it consists of forums, applications and blogs. That’s right, the president of the company has a blog

Shun says:

It depends

I consider myself “old” because I use email for most communications. I had IM at my last job, but we pretty much just IM’d each other when there was a problem. “Server5 is down”, that sort of thing. Also, we were on the phone a lot. Don’t leave out POTS and mobile phones. They play a role, a rather big one, frankly.

I agree that SMS is replacing IM. Will it replace email? Not until dinosaurs like me die off. FB and MySpace — great, if you’re on them and checking it all the time. Not so great if you’re stuck at work.

There’s this work/not divide that has to be addressed: depending on the company, you are not expected to be on FB all day long. So, your FB time is going to be limited to after hours, or all day, if you’re unemployed.

My biggest pet peeve: IM’s from unemployed friends. “Can’t you see I’m working?” Actually, I am guilty of that, sometimes, as well.

Lastly, the communications medium which is most comfortable to us is the one we use for our particular purpose. Don’t need to know what’s happening all the time 24/7? Email. Mission critical data? SMS/IM/Panic Button (you all do have panic buttons, right?) Planning a party — FB and Myspace.

I would really like to see all of these converge and open up, so that I would simultaneously receive messages on my phone and IM, and a little tickler in my email. Again, pie-in-the-sky thinking. I guess I should be happy that email was created by geeks who opened the code, or we’d all owe our souls to AOL and CompuServe.

Oh, and email is not like sending a letter. It’s like sending a postcard. If you want confidentiality, use VPN’s or PGP. Otherwise “All your trade secret belong to us”

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe I’m weird but I don’t feel a deep and pressing need to be “in contact” with everyone 24/7.

I read my emails when I get home from work. I ignore text messages, (which has the happy result of reducing them to almost nothing), I don’t belong to FB or MS or anything similar, I don’t use IM and I leave my phone in the car most of the time, especially at weekends.

I still manage to keep in contact with those I consider important and don’t in the slightest feel like I’m missing anything.

I imagine I’m a dying breed.

ipanema (user link) says:

Perhaps ‘older’ people don’t have loads of free time for other forms of communication as much as kids have. E-mail is just perfect. People won’t disturb you that much. Whereas text messaging can result to chatting depending on the other person or if one needs immediate answer.

Here in Asia, txt messaging thrives, calling the Philippines as the text capital of the world [i don’t know who said that, just read it].

Kids do feel that to be hip and cool is to try out all these latest gadgets. It is consuming them too much that some do inappropriate things with their mobile phones. Such is the response that there are many schools here in Southeast Asia banning mobile phones. Which I think is just right. I mean they can do their personal stuff after school or during break.

For us ‘older’ people, we don’t mind for as long as we communicate, any means is alright. Perhaps e-mail was there before text messaging.

ericdegen (profile) says:

Long live Old people and their Email

Good Lord, I cant believe I’m going to defend email but here goes… As broken, SPAM infested, and exploitable email is it’s still the foundation of communications on the net. Maybe I’m one of these “old People” who just doesn’t get the social networking obsession, but as a 20 year IT vet who uses IM communications on a daily basis for work, I just don’t see it supplanting email.

Pankaj Taneja (user link) says:

Taming the Email Monster

Far from being dead, the email monster is only growing. We have to cut it down to size! Baxter estimated email interruptions cost businesses $650 Billion in 2008.

We recently did a whitepaper titled “From Email Bankruptcy to Business Productivity” which suggests some novel ways to control email overflow. You can see it at

Ted says:

Article mis-titled.

Perhaps a better title for the article would have been “email is for people who care about communicating effectively.” Twitter, facebook, and all the rest are all fine as far as they go but, if you want to send an effective message, email is still king.

(Actually, killing a tree is probably even better; but we’ll stick to electronic communiques.)

Your tweets, your facebook wall, your myspace page — that’s where you put messages if it’s not important to you whether I read them or not. If you’re hoping to convey an idea and effect change, then you’ll bother to fire up an email client.

…And you’ll use whole words, capitalize and punctuate the way MY teachers taught me!

Effective communication isn’t about the author; it’s about the audience. “Get with the program”, indeed!

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