What is your preferred mode of communication? Personally, I’m an email person. If you want to get in touch with me, the fastest way is probably via email because I always have it in front of me. I essentially don’t check my email – my email client is always open and it makes sounds when new email comes in. I also have a plugin in my browser which also notifies me when something hits my gmail account. So chances are that if I’m at my desk, I will see your email within minutes from when it drops into my inbox – and I will probably reply to it immediately.
My brother on the other hand hardly ever uses email. He has some sort of yahoo or hotmail account that he uses for signing up for online services, but he completely ignores all the Gmail invites I send him. He simply doesn’t use email for social purposes. If you want to get a hold of him, you have to use IM or just call him. If you email him, your message will get lost in the avalanche of spam and probably accidentally deleted when he logs into his account again in 2 months. His IM on the other hand is on 24/7. If he is our of the house, or sleeping he has an away message in place to capture all the IM’s sent to him during the day.
Not a very robust solution btw – a simple power outage forcing a shutown will destroy all the queued messages he might have gotten so far. Then again, maybe the client he uses has resolved this issue already. Unlikely though.
So here is what I noticed: my generation is mostly reliant on Email as the primary mode of electronic communication. My brother’s generation and below (he is a Junior in College now) on the other hand seems to rely on IM, supplementing it’s lack of permanence with messaging systems on social networks. These people don’t have actual emails. Or rather they do – one for work, and one for school. And they check both of them only when they have to. So if you send them something on a Friday afternoon, you won’t likely get an answer till Monday or later in the week. But you can easily MySpace or Facebook them and get a response immediately regardless of the time of day or night.
I find it very odd because dealing with the awkward MySpace messaging system gives me diarrhea. Compared to a feature set of your average webmail client (especially in post Gmail era where everyone uses AJAX and gives you pentabytes of space) the social network alternatives are just retarded. But then again, who am I to judge.
I wonder what will happen in 10-20 years. I have no doubts that email will remain one of the primary modes of electronic communication in the corporate world and academia. But what about social circles? Will social networks, and hybrid apps like twitter replace email as the prominent communication medium for just shooting the shit? What do you think?