Kids Say Email is Only for Talking to “The Man”

Tombstone: “Here lies email — Not really dead, but used by kids only to talk to *THE MAN*.”
Image created using the Tombstone Generator.

The younger set aren’t communicating via email, according to this c|net Digital Kids news story:

Just ask a group of teen Internet entrepreneurs, who readily admit that traditional e-mail is better suited for keeping up professional relationships or communicating with adults.

“I only use e-mail for my business and to get sponsors,” Martina Butler, the host of the teen podcast Emo Girl Talk, said during a panel discussion here at the Mashup 2007 conference, which is focused on the technology generation. With friends, Bulter said she only sends notes via a social network.

“Sometimes I say I e-mailed you, but I mean I Myspace’d or Facebook’ed you,” she said.

Reading this, I was reminded of danah boyd’s presentation, My Friends, MySpace at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. One of the points she made that stuck out in my head is that young people see email as a medium for communicating with people for have power over them: parents, school officials, employers, college admissions boards — in other words, “The Man”.

The use of social networking software rather than email for communications means that there’s some Balkanization going on, with users of each social networking app unable to send messages to friends on other social networking apps. The article points out that this problem may in fact be an opportunity:

…Ashley Qualls, president of WhateverLife, a graphical tool for users of MySpace, said she keeps adding on new social networks to her roster of memberships online. “People leave a trail of where they decide to go,” she said.

Badshah said that to subscribe to only one social network means losing out on friendships with people who are active on other rival social networks. That’s because having real estate on MySpace or Facebook means keeping tabs with only certain friends through messaging, blogs and recent photos. That the two major social networks don’t interoperate could be reason for a new social network that could act as an intermediary to aggregate friends in one place, Badshah said, much the way Trillian did for IM applications like Yahoo and AOL.

“It’s a problem for teens–you’re like losing out on some of your friends if you choose just one,” he said.

“To have all your buddy lists in one place, that’s where this is going,” Badshah said.

4 replies on “Kids Say Email is Only for Talking to “The Man””

I think you are right. Since teens and young adults are stuck sending what amounts to emails inside of the walled gardens of the social networks. I can see a big need for interop apps to allow the movement of these “emails” out of the walled gardens.

There is some opportunity there, but I am doubtful as to its long-term revenue potential. Social networking sites are fun for a while, but they are largely peripheral to what you do in meatspace.

Sooner or later the younger set starts working for “the Man”, and “the Man” blocks Facebook because it’s an entropy generator sucking productivity out of the workplace. =)

E-mail’s going to remain the primary communication conduit for businesses for a good long while. I can’t see a bank or telco company asking customers to contact them via IM or a Facebook profile; they wouldn’t be able to tolerate the risk to the brand.

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