My friend Owen Twittered this interesting article on the BBC web site about how social networks are the "new e-mail". This is a subject I have found pretty interesting, partly because every day of my life since the Internet started to get popular I have been spammed excessively.
I have 3 personal email accounts which I am not very good at checking. The only email account that gets my full attention is my work email account. My work emails get sorted into what needs my immediate attention and items that are mildly interesting that I will file away and most probably forget about. There may be a few social contacts which I will probably set myself a reminder to deal with later in Outlook. To me email has become a real chore for every email account you have you need to sort the noise from your real contacts. It has become such an issue that sometimes I give up all together on my personal email account and sit down maybe once a week separating adverts, circulars and spam from genuine friends emailing me. In the old days email was not like this, when you received an email it was an exciting occasion, someone genuinely wanted to contact you. Email used to feel the same as receiving a hand written letter in the post from a friend, but now I find 1 out of 10 emails is usually spam.
Social networks help you separate spam from friend pretty easily. You usually have the option to not receive messages from people who are not in your social network and hence making your social messages and alerts easier to take in. The only problem I have found with networks such as Facebook is the excessive amounts of forwards and invitations to join certain groups or install certain applications. Without thinking about it I installed several Facebook applications just because friends forwarded them to me. I even ended up on a dating Facebook application, which I had no intention of joining and had great difficulty removing myself from. After awhile I started to find social networks just as tiring it was yet another "thing" that needed attention and soon my Facebook account started to become just as tedious to maintain. I found that the best way for people to get my attention or to get me to respond to a social events was via MSN Messenger, phone or actually meeting me and asking if I was attending something. Messenger is spontaneous and gets results. Then someone introduced me to Twitter and from there things started to change.
Twitter didn't demand the high maintenance of a social network and the noise created by spam in an email account was easily avoidable. Twitter kept things simple, you post a message in Twitter it can be anything you want and people can respond. If people start spamming you, you remove them from the list of people you follow on Twitter. Twitter is like a cross between blogging, MSN messenger and social interaction for me. Its also a great platform to put a question to the world and get a response from an expert in almost seconds. This got me thinking, if you keep things simple and they don't demand a great amount of your time, people will stay with it. It was almost as though traditional email should have had this built in. You can only send me emails once I accept your email account is allowed to send me messages which has been attempted before but requires you pay a subscription fee. I don't think social networks are the new email 2.0 I just think they are yet another way of communicating with each other. Each of these communication methods has its place.