for the longest time, we’ve been hearing and reading that email is dead, dying, or destined to be gone in five years. always a skeptic, i never really believed it. that couldn’t possibly be right. most of us have been using email for what, 15 years or so? that’s unstoppable momentum.
but email’s on its way out and there’s no turning back.
a couple of weeks ago, i ran into an old friend from elementary school while waiting for the subway. we chatted for a bit, she asked me if i was on facebook, and we became friends there. in time, i became friends with a bunch of people from my old elementary school and there’s even a reunion of sorts taking place this sunday. i’m sure there were calls on other people’s ends, but it sure seems like a lot of it was done through facebook.
a couple days after that run-in, i got an email from someone who was a real good friend in elementary school, a side-effect of that chance subway meeting. he asked in his email why we didn’t stay in touch once we went off to our different high schools. the answer, i thought, was pretty simple — we didn’t have email. i didn’t have (much of) a problem staying in touch with high school friends because we all traded these weird collections of letters and numbers with an ampersand before leaving for college; none of us had used email, but we were told that we had email addresses. why not share them while we were passing phone numbers around? it seemed to make a lot of sense at the time, and it was a good move. i stayed in touch with all my high school friends, in one way or another, though college and am still friends with them today, either in person or virtually.
after college and a couple years of work, i had the bright idea of starting a blog. so did millions of other people. back then, i was writing nothing more than one or two lines, but i’d like to think that my online writing as progressed at least a little. seven years later, though, i barely touch the blog. friends of mine who also had blogs seem to be running into a similar bout of writer’s block. i like to think it’s because we’re all just a little too busy to keep a running diary of our lives, funny things that we come across, or great events to celebrate. but i also think we’re a little bored. it’s hard work keeping up a regularly-published piece of writing and there’s no real payoff to any of it. it sometimes seemed like another way to send out a mass email, at least for me, since most of the comments i’ve ever gotten on my blog were from friends anyway.
why does anyone need to blog anymore? we keep everyone informed about what we’re doing using mini-blogs like twitter and pownce. we get our news from news aggregators or, even better, RSS readers. we put our photos and movies up on sites like flickr and invite people to comment on them. we put bookmarks on sites like del.icio.us and share them with the world. and we keep our facebook profiles up to date with more information that we would otherwise ever divulge… and we get to update our status, message our friends, join groups, play scrabulous, send flowers to people, and share even more pictures and movies with others. we even get professional with it all and join linkedin. even better, we use a web browser like flock to take care of pulling in all this information together for us. if we tread carefully and responsibly, isn’t this a better way to do things? why wait for a return email when we can collaborate in near-real-time instead?
maybe this blog post doesn’t matter anymore because it’s too obvious. i’ve been trying to find the time to write this for a while now, but it took a somewhat slow friday to finally get my thoughts together. i’ve been trying the “email is dead” line with people at work and most aren’t really biting… do they need to catch up or will things just settle down to the same old thing?
i’m sold, though. and besides, it gives me an excuse to not return emails…