Here’s the thing: this isn’t a post about the demise of e-mail, at least that is not my intention. I still think email serves a purpose in today’s digital culture (and it better, businesses still charge clients a fair but decent amount of money to be a part of theirs), but really…I don’t know why. I can’t justify it without some completely reasonable retort, I don’t even claim to be a huge advocate for the medium. I guess I just, do. There’s so many signs that point to the contrary, but like television, radio, and even print (for now) it’s still around. There are pros to this:
One – Email is still the main source of communication in the workplace. If you’ve ever seen Office Space, you cringe when you hear the term ‘TPS reports’, or ‘didn’t you get the memo?’ Fact is, these phrases are all but gone thanks to email. It’s now, ‘did you send that Google doc?’ or ‘did you get cc’d in that last email?’. My office laughed at me when I didn’t know how to work the fax machine, but they don’t think twice about coming to me with a question on Google Calendars. Especially now that they’ve found how it integrates into their email. It’s taken some getting used to, but corporate America is all about email.
Two – Email is still the most trusted way of getting something directly to someone as quick as possible. Sure some use Facebook messaging, others Tweet it. However, email is the .pdf of the conversation. Pretty much everyone can open a .pdf, and pretty much everyone has an email. Not everyone’s on Facebook, whether it be for privacy concerns or sticking it to The Man. Not everyone is on Twitter, whether it’s lack of time in the day, or ‘not caring what someone is eating for breakfast’. Everyone has email, and more importantly if someone wants to get something to another person fast, they send it via email.
But here’s the rub: for as many pros, there has to be cons.
One – The next generation will always be a step ahead. The generation before mine had cellular telephones and fax machines, mine has been baptized in email and smart phones with a dose of social media. The next generation will have their own thing. There are a crazy few that try to keep up with the trends, but in the end you just don’t get it man. I’m really not looking forward to that moment. Fact is, there are colleges no longer passing out email accounts but rather iPads. There will come a time when children will read about email on their video feed from their Google Glasses (or whatever those Tron looking things are) and think “man, how did people live back then?”
Two – Social Networks are a competitive bunch. It’s like a real version of the Michael Jordan v. Mia Hamm Gatorade spot with the tune “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”, except it’s not sports it’s our digital culture and literally billions of dollars. It’s an app eat app world out there, and only the richest with the most accounts tend to survive. Case in point: Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram. Great app (something Facebook doesn’t know much about) so instead of sitting by letting Instagram build a photo sharing empire, they buy it for a sweet price and continue to let it do what it does. They did it to an up and coming force in the social world, don’t think they can’t do it to email. There’s constantly rumors of when users can integrate email into their Facebook and just receive everything right in one spot. It’s just around the corner.
Pros meet cons. Each of you is valid, but arguments weren’t made to be tied. 10 years ago it was unheard of to say “yeah I got your email, Skype me real quick so we can go over the main points” or “I was about finished with your memo but my battery died”. It’s amazing how far we’ve come. Technology is introduced to help better our lives, and with that previously existing tools must die. I don’t know when, but email will at some point meet it’s fate. However, I truly think now is not that time. It’s like religion: I don’t have solid, indisputable facts that email is here and strong, I just believe it is. I still believe it has a purpose to serve. I do know this: Go without Facebook for a week and you miss out on a bunch of useless status’, and barrage of time-wasting photos and maybe an invitation to that thing your neighbors are having but they told you about it in person anyway so you knew. Go without email for a week and you could miss out on a major business opportunity or life changing decision. For now, that’s power that can’t be bought.