Social Networking Blog

Guy Clapperton on the evolving new media

Social networks and email: it’s not like for like

I’ve just been reading a BBC News story about how social networks are replacing emails. It’s here for anyone who wants a look.

It contends, basically, that social networks are taking over from email as the way of keeping in touch. My instinct is they’re doing no such thing – but isn’t it interesting how people always feel that something new has to be replacing something else? Think back a while, to before just about anyone reading this was born. Radio, everyone swore, would wipe out theatre and newspapers. It didn’t – it found its niche. Television was going to destroy radio – it didn’t. It certainly supplanted it as the most popular mass medium but both now have their appropriate niches.

We fast forward to the present day and we have reports that ebooks will replace books (in terms of business books I’d say why not, I’d be happy for my books to come out electronically – but in terms of sitting back and enjoying something I’d rather hold a proper book any time) and of course social networks replacing email.

Well, I hope not. I love social networks as a one-to-many way of keeping in touch. But I don’t see the one-to-one conversation doing anything other than getting in other people’s way on Twitter, and it’s cumbersome on Facebook. What we are about to see, I believe, is an evolution of email use by all means, but not a wipeout. People will start to think about whether something would go better on email or on a social network and eventually they’ll get it right instinctively, just as we now consider whether something should be mailed or phoned to someone without giving it a lot of conscious thought.

I’m happy to be proven wrong of course – but does anyone seriously think a closed network like Facebook or a 140 character limited string is going to wipe out mails for good?


March 15, 2009 - Posted by | Unexpected things happen

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