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Email isn't Dead -- Even if the Teens Say So

Apparently, teens are abandoning email for more immediate forms of communication. That doesn't mean the working world will follow suit. But it does mean that there could be better ways to communicate to get the job done.In Slate, Chad Lorenz describes how his email use is marking him as "a lame old fogey" compared to a generation reared on IM, Facebook, and Twitter.

He notes: "According to a 2005 Pew study, almost half of Web-using teenagers prefer to chat with friends via instant messaging rather than e-mail. Last year, comScore reported that teen e-mail use was down 8 percent, compared with a 6 percent increase in e-mailing for users of all ages. As mobile phones and sites like Twitter and Facebook have become more popular, those old Yahoo! and Hotmail accounts increasingly lie dormant."

What do these other forms of communication have that email doesn't? Immediacy, speed, and the ability to be in constant contact.

While teens, and other non-working members of society get to choose their communication technologies everyone else does not. Tech writer Matthew Ingram points out that once teens become productive members of society  by which he means they get a job  they too will be forced to "deal with the massive time-sucking drain on productivity that we call email."
He doesn't think email is dead, but he doesn't think it looks too healthy either.

We all know email is not dead -- or even dying -- but, as the teens have figured out, for many aspects of work it can be frustrating to deal with. Anyone who been cc'ed on a team project or group document and winds up with a long chain of emails that seem to go around and around can testify to that.

Blogger Zoli Erdos recognizes that. "Sure, I also get frustrated by the occasional rapid-fire exchange of one-line emails when by the 15th round we both realize the conversation should have started on IM." Nevertheless, email is "vital" for "a build-up of logical structure, sequence, or simply a written record of facts."

But, he adds, "Email in business is being "attacked" from another direction though: for project teams, planning activity, collaboratively designing a document, staging an event etc email is a real wasteful medium. Or should I say, it's the perfect place for information to get buried. This type of communication is most effective using a wiki. No, email is not dead, and it wont be any time soon. But we all have to learn to use the right tool in the right situation."

Email doesn't always fit. As Ingram adds, "In some cases a wiki makes more sense, or a Google document, or a live chat, or (God forbid) even a phone call."