Email is for Old People

The Pew Internet Study on Teen’s and Technology is now available. Of particular note is the section on IM. An excerpt follows:

For many years, email has been the most popular application on the internet – a popular and “sticky” communications feature that keeps users coming back day after day. But email may be at the beginning of a slow decline as online teens begin to express a preference for instant messaging.

The presence of email in teens’ lives has persisted, and the number that uses email continues to surpass those who use IM. However, when asked about which modes of communication they use most often when communicating with friends, online teens consistently choose IM over email in a wide array of contexts.

Teens who participated in focus groups for this study said that they view email as something you use to talk to “old people,” institutions, or to send complex instructions to large groups. When it comes to casual written conversation, particularly when talking with friends, online instant messaging is the clearly the mode of choice for today’s online teens.

Instant messaging has become the digital communication backbone of teens’ daily lives. About half of instant-messaging teens – or roughly 32% of all teens – use IM every single day. As the platforms for instant messaging programs spread to cell phones and handheld devices, teens are starting to take textual communication with them into their busy and increasingly mobile lives. IM is a staple of teens’ daily internet diet and is used for a wide array of tasks – to make plans with friends, talk about homework assignments, joke around, check in with parents, and post “away messages” or notices about what they are doing when they are away from their computers.

  • 75% of online teens – or about two-thirds of all teenagers – use instant messaging,
    compared to 42% of online adults.
  • 48% of teens who use instant messaging say they exchange IMs at least once every
    day.

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