Blog Post

Social Networks Pressuring Traditional Email, IM Channels

[qi:031] People are spending less time on communication sites that are focused around email and instant messaging, according to an analysis released today by the Online Publishers Association, a trade organization, a decline it attributes to the rising popularity of social networks such as Facebook, MySpace (s nws) and Twitter. Indeed, posting photos and videos to social networks is an easy way to engage people in your social graph and show them what’s going on in your life, and many feature their own built-in email and IM capabilities. And Facebook’s internal user engagement numbers back up the OPA’s findings; it claims some 1 billion chat messages are sent each day and 2 billion photos are uploaded to the site each month.

I was a bit surprised by the chat statistic, as it’s not a feature I tend to use given how many of my Facebook friends are merely casual acquaintances. I prefer GTalk, as I have an actual relationship with the people in my chat list there, and I primarily use Gmail to communicate with people in my professional life. I do, however, regularly use Facebook messaging. Regardless, it’s the photo upload stat that resonates most strongly with my own experience.

It’s quicker to upload photos to Facebook than sending a batch of photos over email, which is why when I lived in London for three months this year, I kept my friends and family in the loop as to what I was doing by uploading photos and videos to my account. It also allowed them to quickly and easily respond via commenting. Aside from that convenience, Facebook is where all my friends hang out online. So while I could upload an album to a site like Shutterfly, there’s no guarantee those friends would take the time to view it.

Readers, are you finding that you’re relying on social networks more than email and instant messenger to connect with people? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

15 Responses to “Social Networks Pressuring Traditional Email, IM Channels”

  1. People using these mediums to keep in contact with long distance friends and loved ones are enjoying greater benefits over simple snail mail. However, many people are living in a virtual world and loosing touch with reality. They are loosing the ability of personal interaction and limiting themselves to a non-existence world. Friends are hard to come by and requires in person nurturing.

    Humans are social animals and require interaction that includes all of our senses. The virtual world gives people the ability to say and act in a written script. The majority of people would never use these scripts in the real world. Becoming a socialite in the virtual world my result in becoming a hermit in the real one.

  2. Kendall Weaver

    I’ve never had an account on either Myspace or Facebook, however Twitter is revolutionizing the way I communicate. Since obtaining a smart phone with a Twitter client I use SMS messaging maybe 20% of what I used to. Virtually all of my close friends have Twitter accounts (and check them often) and the ability to have them all see something I post is significantly more efficient than selecting names for a mass text, or resending the same or similar messages over and over. I also make a lot of use of the ‘direct message’ function, using it as an obvious texting alternative with the added bonus of me not having to save, remember, or even know someone’s phone number. Twitter has also significantly cut down on the amount of time I spend using my phone as a phone. At work it’s far more effective for me to carry on a passive ongoing conversation using Twitter than it is for me to stop doing what I’m doing for several minutes to take a personal phone call.

  3. I am an old guy and was around when email was THE thing other than your phone – and it still is for me, my friends and work. I used IM for a few years, but now that is dead as far as I am concerned – and as far as those I connect with regularly. I use Facebook some for family and I use SMS often. I also use Twitter, but more professionally than personally. However, my 17 yr old daughter uses FB Chat exclusively – well that and a couple of thousand SMS messages a month.

  4. &#60b&#62When there are only 24-hours in a day, I think the “easiest” method will prevail in most cases. &#x60Hence the popularity of Facebook Photos (which is a clearly inferior product compared to Flickr, SmugMug, etc.).

  5. In short: No. Facebook and social networks are in my “outer” circle of friends (friends, casual friends and acquaintances) and often have more of a short broadcast quality with more infrequent quick replies. With my “inner” circle or if these are “in-depth” conversations, I use Skype/GTalk for IM or simply email depending on where they are at, since I want to keep these private.

    I look at real friend conversations similar to business conversations – I don’t conduct these over Facebook, either

    • Same. I don’t consider photos or updates posted on Facebook to be personal communication. The posters are broadcasting some part of themselves, and not thinking of me or our relationship when they do so. These broadcast updates do have value, but less than the form letter updates some people send with holiday cards (with the cards, at least someone took the trouble to mail something directly to you…).

      Email, phone, IM, or (horrors!) face-to-face conversation are how I communicate with family, colleagues or real friends.