I love email. There is no denying it. The first time I discovered email (back in the 80's...) I can remember a rush of electricity running through me. "the delivery time just went to zero" I remember thinking. "And I can CC: people... it is like a private bulletin board". You can imagine how long I laughed when my daughter recently looked at me and said "Mom, email is dead- no one reads email anymore". I tried to explain to her that I processed several hundred emails each day, there is NO way this is going away. Then I stopped and wondered if the people who used carbon paper on a daily basis felt the same way once upon a time. Was it possible that I was buried so deeply in my habits that I was not seeing a coming change in usage? I decided to take a moment, step back with an open mind and pay attention to how the teenagers around me were communicating electronically. Here are some of the insights I have gathered about our future workforce:
1) All electronic communication is one-on-one. Some communication is private and some is personal, but it is all on a one to one basis. I saw this first hand recently when I was drafting my 14 year old to assist with getting comments on an article in the HP Magic Contest on Chris Pirillo's site. I asked her to contact her friends on Facebook and ask them to read and comment on the article. When I tackled this task, I wrote one message, CC'd it to any of my friends on Facebook and hit send. When she tackled this task, she typed up a message and sent it to one friend. Then she typed something slightly different and typed it to another. Then she typed a new message and sent it to another friend. Then she typed... you get the picture. I asked her what the HECK she was doing.. which led me to observation number two.
2) Only spammers CC: people. Laugh all you want at the naivete in this statement. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. Who in business today does not CC: ( or even BCC:) people on a daily (hourly??) basis? Once you stop laughing, stop and think about this. If an entire age group of people think and believe a certain way, isn't it likely to come true in the future? This is not just a misunderstanding of email, this is a philosophical stance being taken by a generation. What they believe and act on is the idea that all communication, even electronic communications, are personal interactions.
3)Messaging is ubiquitous, not a separate application. Email as an entity does not really exist. There is just the concept of messaging. Sometimes you send a private ( or public) message on Facebook, or MySpace. Or maybe you send a message in Flickr, Geeks.com, or from within a game you are playing. It might just be a text message on your cell phone. The concept of opening up a new application or web page JUST to do email is beyond silly (the actual term was "ridiculous") to the upcoming generation.
I have to admit that I am still struggling to imagine my life without gmail or Outlook or Thunderbird, but if I am honest, I have to admit that a change is coming. This is a topic that will continue to watch and discuss with the teens who cross my path- and I will be writing more on this in the near future. In the meantime, I have to admit that although my business usage of an email application has not changed, my personal use of email has become more and more limited- more an more of my one on one communication in my personal life takes place on facebook or twitter or through blog coments and not via email.
Is your email usage changing? What would your digital life look like without an email application ??