If you get your news primarily online, this won’t surprise you: Email is dead. ConsumerAffairs.com declared it back on June 27th. Digg linked to the story almost immediately, which made it truly official. Numerous bloggers like Shawn Smith have been talking about it ever since.
If you’ve been with me this week, you know I’m a little slow. I only got word of email’s demise this past Monday when I stumbled on a post by Michael Becker. His comments grew from an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Email is for old people.”
One more link if you don’t mind. Shakespeare’s Sister comments on this story. Check it out if only to see the best blog tagline ever and some spirited discussion on feminist issues.)
If you think spam is killing email, guess again. On college campuses at least, students are choosing more useful and instantaneous connections. They have Facebook and MySpace, but also IM and text messaging. According to the Chronicle story, these options have a good number of students ignoring their campus email accounts and, in the process, missing important messages from professors and administrators. One student said he checks his campus account “about every other month.”
Sheesh! How are we supposed to run a university when no one’s listening?
Anyway, I plan to celebrate the death of email a little later today. Because it’s not working for me either.
I sensed the problem about two weeks back when three of the most responsive people I know (two of them former students and senior-level public relations pros) ignored my emails — even after a reminder message to each. At first I was miffed, then I looked at the 152 messages in my own inbox, most awaiting my response. Then it hit me: I ignore people, too.
If you’re one of those folks in my email line, sorry. I didn’t mean to blow you off. I just can’t get to you. You see, in my world people don’t talk much anymore. They just email, even when they’re right upstairs or down the hall. Email is easy, and it allows us to make 10-fold the number of “connections” we could using face-to-face or telephone.
But are we really connecting?
When I began using email a decade ago, I got excited every time new messages arrived. Today I dread them. But I also know I’m part of the problem. I bury people in email, and they return the favor. So I’m no longer surprised when folks ignore me, nor am I offended.
And you know what’s really interesting? My office phone rings MAYBE once a day. I could rip it out of the wall and no one would notice. Students with questions still visit my office, but often it’s because I haven’t answered their emails in a timely enough fashion, which for the IMers means “right now.”
While IM, text messaging and social networks are bringing an entire generation of folks together, I worry that email may have the opposite effect on the rest of us. Students using social networks have a lot more than software. Their online networks enable them to keep some intimacy in their communiction — some meaning. All I get from email is information overload.
What are students missing by ignoring email? A few tuition bill notices and a lot of university propaganda. I think they’re on to something.