Is the personal email address dead?

Is the personal email address dead?

6 March 2013 | 7:30 am

Between Facebook, Twitter, Skype and SMS, is there still a place for your old Hotmail and Yahoo! accounts?

There’s no shortage of ways to stay in touch with your family and friends these days. Short of posting a handwritten letter, practically all of those ways are more immediate and convenient than sending an email. Email is still a necessary evil for work, but I find myself turning to my personal Yahoo! email less and less.

My Yahoo! email account is so old that it could almost legally drive. Back in the 1990s, it was at the centre of my social life. Today, I barely touch it. It’s not that I don’t have friends, it’s just that we don’t bother with email anymore. Most of the messages in my inbox seem to be spam from other Yahoo! users after a recent spate of account hacking.

Text messaging tends to be my default way of contacting friends, especially as Telstra’s frustrating mobile plans force me to pay for far more monthly calls and texts than I really need. I may as well use them. The great thing about texting is that it’s universal – it doesn’t matter what kind of phones my friends use and whether they are gadget freaks or still using a basic Nokia brick. If they’ve got a number, I know I can reach them. In that way, it’s platform-agnostic like email, except you know they’ll get your message as soon as you send it.

Occasionally I’ll use Facebook, Skype or WhatsApp messaging, but only if the other person has instigated it. I want tech to make my life easier, not harder, so I really don’t want yet another inbox to check. Unfortunately, it’s hard to dictate such things to your friends. We’ve all got that one friend who stays in contact with the world solely via Facebook, or seems addicted to Twitter. At the other end of the scale, we all know a few people who still insist on picking up the phone to make a voice call. When my home phone rings, it’s either my mum or my better half’s mum. No one else seems to bother with landlines much. My dad sent me a text message once; it even had a smiley face at the end. I got such a shock that I thought his phone had been stolen.

Youngsters today (get off my lawn!) look at email the same way people who grew up with email look at posting a letter. Today, they see email as too formal and, dare I say it, old fashioned. Once they leave high school they’ll probably need a personal email address to get by in the world, but they’ll barely touch it. When they move into the workforce they’ll be expected to use email, but don’t expect them to go along willingly. Like previous generations, they’ll bring their own devices and communication tools into the office and demand to be able to use them. Until then, they’re far more likely to have a Facebook account than a Hotmail account.

Email isn’t going to die out anytime soon, just as the written letter and telephone have survived the introduction of new technologies. It’s just going to become a specialist tool.

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