Friday, March 7, 2008

Is IM making e-mail obsolete?

I was talking with a friend the other day, and I shared my opinion that e-mail is rapidly being replaced by text/instant messaging. When he looked at me like I had seven heads, and said I was overstating things, I retreated pretty quickly into a lame "well, you're probably right: text messaging will probably grow in popularity, but e-mail isn't going anywhere."

After reading this post on What's Noo?, however, I'm retroactively standing behind my original statement.

Why is text messaging gaining preference over e-mail? Well first, it's better: you can communicate in real time, with one person or a group. E-mail is close to real time, but not close enough--and as we become increasingly use to instant gratification, it's not surprised we're becoming increasingly fond of instant messaging. Another reason: it's more accepted, given that for most Gen Yers, text messaging is as common as the phone is to their parents.

This latter point was hammered home when I heard a speaker, Brian Niles, present at a higher education seminar. Niles's company, Target X, had researched high school students' "preferred way to communicate." IM/text messaging was was ahead of e-mail, although e-mail still serves a purpose for teens: they use it to "talk to old people." And what did they mean by "old people"? Anyone older than them, of course.

So, while you may not be able to change your status as one of the "old people," you can keep pace with the kids by getting as comfortable with text messaging as you are with e-mail. Someday soon, you may not have a choice.

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