Why Are Young People Abandoning Email?

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Having an email account used to be cool. You could send people in China your thoughts on the new Counting Crows album, receive email confirmation for movie tickets you bought on the phone, and field scam messages.

Not anymore. Kids today are more interested in texting, sexting, Droids, and sexting Droids. Why? New York Times technology writer Matt Richtel has a theory--email just isn't cool anymore. An email account in the year 2010 is a "sign you're an old fogey," the kind of guy who "still watches movies on a VCR, listens to vinyl records and shoots photos on film." It also requires a "boringly long process of signing into an account, typing out a subject line and then sending a message that might not be received or answered for hours."

Teens, needless to say, do not have time for this sort of nonsense. Which is probably why, as Richtel notes, the "number of total unique visitors in the United States to major e-mail sites like Yahoo and Hotmail is now in steady decline ... Such visits peaked in November 2009 and have since slid 6 percent; visits among 12- to 17-year-olds fell around 18 percent." Interestingly enough, this data "does not reflect a drop in [the total amount of] digital communication; people have just gravitated to instant messaging, texting and Facebook (four billion messages daily)."

Yahoo! senior director of product management David McDowell points out many email functions (attachments, cc lines) are not geared towards teenagers anyway. Maybe they'll come around when they enter the workplace.

James E. Katz, the director for the Center for Mobile Communications Studies at Rutgers University has a bleaker vision of the in-box's future.

"It's painful for them," he said of the younger generation and e-mail. "It doesn't suit their social intensity."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.