I was talking about different email protocols in the class, and I noticed that the difference between POP, IMAP and SMTP is absolutely irrelevant to my students. I asked students in both of my classes if they ever actually used an actual email client like Outlook, or Thunderbird. Not a single hand went up in either of the classes. That’s around 52 college students who never, ever in their life seen anything other than webmail interface. In fact, most of them hardly use email at all. Most communication between them seems to happen via Myspace/Facebook.
When we work in the computer lab, most people have the following pages open in the background: Facebook, Myspace and sometimes Meebo. I have yet to see a Gmail or Yahoo inbox on someones screen. Two years ago, I actually seen people checking their email in the lab. It’s funny that my students seem to be a demographic completely opposite to my regular readership here who still prefer email as their primary means of communication.
My students seem consider it a necessary evil. They reluctantly check their university account because the old, backwards professors still use it for posting assignments and such. I mean, that’s like so 90′s it’s not even funny. Some of them also reluctantly use their AOL email which came free with the AIM account, to write emails to their mom and all the other old timers. Why can’t they all set up Myspace and Facebook profiles like normal people. :roll:
I know, I know. This is beginning to sound like an old fart rant about “the damn teenagers these days”. The thing is that I don’t have anything against IM, social networks, twitter and etc. I use them all, and I really think they are great. It’s just that sometimes people abuse them. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I had a back and forward correspondence via the retarded MySpace private message interface, and wondered why can’t this be done via email. After all, all we were doing was using an internal email-like system to facilitate an email-like exchange. Only the interface was klunky and lame, the conversation was kept separate from all my other email, and I actually had to go out of my way and log into MySpace to see if I got a reply.
But I guess it’s a matter of convenience. I check my MySpace 3 or 4 times a week, when I remember about it. On the other hand I have a Firefox plugin that checks my Gmail account and notifies me of incoming messages every minute or two. On the other hand, most of my students and many of my friends are the exact opposite. They are always logged into MySpace and Facebook but never actually check their email. So if we were to take the conversation outside their proffered network it would then be separate from all their usual conversations, done with unfamiliar interface, and forcing them to log into another application to talk to me.
So I do understand the issue here. Maybe we need an email-to-facebook messaging bridge or something… Nah, scratch that. I’m right, and they are wrong. I’m using an open, extensible platform. If I want to, I can encrypt my email, sign it digitally, attach whatever the hell I want to it, and I can choose a way I can read it. What they are doing is locking themselves in a walled garden where they can only talk to other inhabitants of the garden, only using the tools that the garden provides for them.
I’m suspecting that the difference between us and them is the degree of clue. Note that the people I teach are not technology or science majors. They are also not business school students, because they have their own MIS course geared for their “very special” needs. And yes, I mean special in the most demeaning, and condescending way possible.
My students are a motley bunch of all these weird majors that I didn’t even know existed. Like phys-ed, dance and nutrition for example. I mean who knew that you can actually get a college degree without ever learning anything about science and literature. I mean I really don’t want to demean their career choices or anything. After all they are in college, which is a good thing. It’s just that when I write a summation formula on the board in the Sigma notation and then I turn around to see 30 faces stricken with the expression of absolute, inexplicable horror, I get a little bit sad. I mean, this is something that they should know from high school math classes, and yet they all act as if they just lost sanity points after glimpsing at some contorted mathematical horror from the deep.
Then again I sometimes correspond to young up and coming bloggers and/or linux enthusiasts, who seem to be perfectly comfortable using email. So here is my theory: cluefull people, young and old tend to gravitate towards email since it is open, flexible and it facilitates structured, and thoughtful information exchange. They don’t reject social networks – they embrace them, but use the right tools for the right jobs.
Clueless people shun email, and remain perfectly content to live in their walled gardens of social networks complementing their lack of complexity with services like IM, and text messaging.
So, email is not for old people. It’s for cluefull people. The big problem is that not all young people out there posses a clue. In fact, most aren’t since the distribution of technological competence in general population follows the bell curve. So chances are, someone who you are trying to communicate with is not in the awesome tail of the curve, but rather somewhere in the middle. And clueless uses tend to think about using the right tool. They just use whatever is within their arms reach and doesn’t require a lot of effort or learning on their part.
[tags]email, im, social networks, email is for old people, social, clue[/tags]