email is the new snail mail

interesting article here on how, for teenagers and young 20-somethings, email is a dinosaur. well, an occasionally necessary dinosaur — for when they need to communicate with dinosaurs. texting, primarily, as well as social-networking sites like myspace and facebook, have shoved email off the map.

”Everyone sends e-mails because you have to e-mail your instructors, you have to e-mail your grandma, that’s the way the world works,” he said. But, he added, ”it’s sort of an old fogey way of communicating.”

the article, i believe, wrongly identifies the “hipness” of texting and social-networking sites as the reason. it’s not the sexiness of those things, it’s the immediacy of those things. email still has a “wait for a response” factor. texting is now. whenever, wherever.

i noticed this a few years ago in england, when texting was already extremely normal and popular there, but still gaining a head of steam in the u.s. i asked a few teenagers and youth workers about it, and they all told me that texting was the only way kids communicated (well, and actual phone calls, of course). and their reasons were clear: email is too slow. and it (email) doesn’t really fit the culture of immediacy, since it requires sitting at a computer that’s hooked up to the internet (unless the user has an email-enabled phone, which are normally too expensive for teenagers).

here’s what i found the most interesting about this, from a youth worker’s perspective: no one predicted this. really. i NEVER once heard a youth expert say that email was going to live as short a lifespan as it did with teenagers. we youth experts were still caught up in pontificating about chat rooms (ha! what happened to those!), and dreaming of ministry apps for that now-archaic connecting place. this is a great reminder to me that we (that i) do not know what’s next; that i do not know if the stream of youth culture will cut left or cut right. all i can really predict, in some ways, is that youth culture will continue to surprise us.

related: teen texting champ wins $25,000 for texting “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in 15 seconds. she estimates she sends 8000 text messages per month.

(ht to ypulse/anastasia)

8 thoughts on “email is the new snail mail”

  1. I’ve noticed this with my teens for some time now. Only a few teens and their parents read my email newsletter anymore.

    Myspace is king of online communication for teens today. I have started a myspace for my student ministry, and when I have an announcement, I post a bulletin for all to read. I get a greater response from Myspace than I do from email.

    I guess it’s our job as youth leaders to communicate with our teens any way that they communicate with their friends. I just hope this MySpace fad blows over, because the site is horrible (bad design, super unsecured).

  2. I agree that texting and sites such as Facebook and MySpace are the way to go. I too have a Facebook and MySpace page for my youth ministry. I believe in texting so much that I had our Business Administrator add texting to my cell plan. I do not send out nearly as many texts as my youth do, but on average I receive about fifteen text a day from my students. Additionally, I added a message board to my webpage that is a total bunt. The kids hardly ever utilize it.

    Erik, I agree that MySpace is pretty trashy, but it is a medium that meets our youth where they are. If I had my druthers, I would certainly go with Facebook over MySpace; if only because the ads aren’t as racy…

  3. I think we need to consider that this is also tied into proxemics. You dont text people you dont know well, in some way you email them instead.

  4. I did some mkt research with 17-24 a few months back – they noted that email is for old people. One boomerang was the impact that is having on “older people” who deal primarily with 17-24. We got feedback from >1k students that they prefer what one might call contextual communication (w/in a social network or an application) to the email paradigm.

    It will be interesting to track how this influences preaching & teaching style. The volumne of communication is much greater, putting the onus on people (pastors, those who view ministry formally) who are more comfortable being a sage on the stage, than a guide on the side (to paraphrase Parker Palmer).

  5. some of my student leaders are still caught between texting and emails. most of my students have unlimited texting, but for the ones who don’t, email remains a viable backup. myspace is always a decent option, though i’d much rather chat with one of my kids in AIM than a back-and-forth chat in myspace. not big on myspace IM program so far.

    but your point is well taken, marko. when i was living in europe in 2000-2001, texting was pretty big there already (in greece). when i got back to the states, almost no one knew what it meant to “text” someone. it’s a nice edge we walk: we can’t get caught in the trap, as youth workers, of thinking we have to “be” youth anymore, yet we must remain aware and engaged with the culture of youth. such an incredible challenge!

    oh, and a few months ago, i went to unlimited texting. last month, had something over 1,000 texts. wow…

  6. So what’s happening with our youth ministry friends and with students on the other side of the pond these days? What has become of 4-5 years of texting over emailing? What are they morphing into now?

  7. Texting is the in thing to do now…but it has caused us to lose the art of conversation. Imagine being told that your baby will be aborted over a text message – true story of someone I’ve ministered to…Texting is ok, but face to face is always better.

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