Why Email is Dying Out with Younger Generation

“Email is for old people” – so says the younger generation (ages 13-24). They still use email when they need to, but it is no longer their primary means of written communication. For the younger generation, email has largely been replaced by text messaging (SMS), instant messaging (IM), and social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.

So why is email dying out? Stephen Wellman offers the following three reasons why today’s young people prefer these other means of communication:

  1. Control. The advantage of text messaging, IM, and social network sites, compared with e-mail, is that these systems are controlled by users’ buddy lists. While spamming inside these modes of communications does happen, it’s still much harder and more expensive to spam people through IM, text, and social networks than it is through e-mail.
  2. Immediacy. IM is instant and so, too, is SMS. Social networks are immediate, too. E-mail is slower. Users have to wait for a response and e-mail communication isn’t, in most cases, a real-time dialogue.
  3. Personalization. E-mail is a cold medium. It’s not as personal as social networking, where message updates and friend connections extend users’ online personas through their communications. Cell phones are, almost by definition, highly personal devices and, likewise, younger users see text messages as more intimate.

So, what do you think? Is email really on its way out? How about some of the younger readers of this blog? Is email “just so twentieth-century?”

HT: Jim Martin, at A Place for the God Hungry


  1. Kathryn Post says:

    I love my e-mail! My experiences with facebook and myspace have been rather negative. They pre-empt opportunities for one-on-one communication and tend to fester with rumors, gossip, and the promotion of ungodly morals. Text messaging can get expensive quickly, and IMing leaves far too much to be desired in terms of options and accessibility. But maybe I am just one of the “older people”. At 22, I’m a settled, married homeowner just months away from a Master’s Degree. If the younger generation is simply an age category of 13-24 than I technically fit. But if it is based on demographics as well psychographics, I would have to self exclude. I do know that my husband, who’s almost 30, prefers e-mail.

  2. Barrie says:

    Hi Ray,

    This is an interesting topic. I do use email but not as my only mode of communications. I also use im’ing and find it useful for some forms of communications. I am also strongly in favor of regular letter writing and of course the use of the telephone. I am 57 years old and I have noticed that my grown children use all the forms of communications mentioned here. I believe they all use these forms to help them monitor their children’s activities on the internet as well as their use of the US postal service. The biggest danger I find with email and im’ing is the loss of good written skills needed to write a letter without the use of spell check or grammar check. It is very disturbing in the business world to see the lack of proper grammar use when using business communications. Effective writing has become a lost art and I am afraid that our country is losing its edge in the business arts because of it. I am interested on other comments on this subject.

  3. Sharon Gamble says:

    I am a mom on Facebook. My daughter wrote up a profile for me and got my picture up there so I could, as she put it, “lovingly stalk her”. I am enjoying it. I also work with young women in high school and college. Facebook enables me to be available to them in a format they use all the time. When they write in their status something like: “Julie is slowly dying.”, I know to check up on them and see what is happening. Also, I can create a “group” on Facebook for the girls I work with. I can then send them all messages at the same time. I like that Facebook regulates who sees my profile. Unless I grant someone permission, my picture and my profile are totally off-limits. It’s a lot of fun to see the pictures of my daughter’s friends and to see how she is faring each day.

    I am with Barrie, though. There is nothing like a handwritten letter that I can savor over a cup of tea and read over and over again. They are the best!

  4. Timothy Michalak says:

    When it comes to all of the things mentioned above, they all have pros and cons. With IM’ing it is very easy to get the wrong impression quick. Also it has the same effect with texting. Myspace is a complete social network for teens, which is completely sick. First you add internet, and it causes a slight problem, then you have teenage drama and that adds even more problems. A lot of teens also judge their lives on their popularity on myspace. Facebook to me seems to me better than myspace, probably because it is more personal. Myspace is you have all these friends, some who you’ve never met before. And facebook it’s really only your close friends and people you have hung out with before, and that to me seems a lot better. But facebook still has the same problems as myspace. E-mail, believe it or not, is something I use very often. I like to e-mail my teachers a good amount, usually when I have questions about things that have nothing to do with what we are studying =). And unlike all the things mentioned about, email gets rid of the immediacy that comes along with the others. Which, in my opinion, is very much needed. Unfortunately things can go wrong with email and much like one would lose a letter, someone can lose an email from a person in a various different ways. I also love to send letters to people. For me it’s just so old-fashioned (ha ha) but great at the same time. But it does have the same problems that email has.

    Each one is different, but no matter what, no of them can compare to a conversation, whether in person or on the telephone. Because a lot of the time people talking online can be misinterpreted very easily. And emotions can’t be fully experienced in text. If I had to pick between one of these things. I would definitely not choose any of them. =) But rather, meeting in person is the best way to go.

  5. Margaret says:

    Well, this is a surprise to me! I thought I was so modern and up to date, by using e-mail, – now I hear it is becoming old-fashioned! As a 70-plus-year-old, I don’t know much about these other instant message things. But I say Amen and Amen to many of the comments expressed by Barrie, Sharon and Timothy. There is nothing that compares to a “real letter” arriving in my mail box. The art of writing letters may be lost to future generations, and I think that’s not good. Yesterday I received a “real letter” from a 12-year-old grandson, and I was thrilled. Thank you.

  6. Margaret says:

    I want to add one more comment re e-mails. Interesting to get the perspective from Kathryn. At 22, she has similar opinions to some of us in the older generation. Welcome! I might add, Kathryn writes “real letters” also, which are much appreciated.

    I know e-mails can be a ministry. But I also believe real letters are a very special ministry. I have a friend who writes notes to people often, sharing faith and encouragement. A note like that in someones’s mail box can bring such joy.

  7. Daniel says:

    Aahh!!! It sounds like a joke but at the same time real. Thanks to all people with different opinions about electronic mails. I started this so called e-mail when I was a little big boy at about 13 years or so…
    It was kind of exciting to me… Now babies have access to internet full time and some grow up without knowing how to do a handwritten mail unless one takes literature as a subject in school. So what do you think our generation will be??? I am talking like this because i am in the late 20s. Some times I think technology wastes our nature.
    My granny parents tell stories about their youth generation, it sounds interesting unlike thoguh some things were really harder to get along with but they managed. Our lives are full of work and what to do.
    Anyway back to the point…
    E-mail is really a quick, cheap, convinient way of recieving and sending a message but at the same time, one needs to express some real desire by sparing time and do a hand written mail to a friend. It is exciting when I recieve a handwritten mail from a friend. I remember I recieved a letter from my babe oversea, Trust me I pinned it at the side of my bed…
    Not because I love her so much but because she really expressed the desire to show me the care and time she can have for me.
    So I could not put that letter far away from me…
    Then maybe still, some times certain things are obstacles. things like posting services; a mail may take weeks or even months to get to its destination. It sucks… these so called express mails are too expensive for one to handle.
    Hi guys I am not quarreling… it is the reality that our generation, money, materialistic things have changed lots in our lives.
    Maybe we just need to move on…
    Anyway guys out there just share with me. ope one can respond to me thru gmusk @ yahoo dot com. thank you..
    God bless you…

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  1. Young Adults Communication Preferences at Ray Fowler .org

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