In Social Networks are Killing Email, Joshua Porter writes about college students who no longer bother to check their email accounts because they so frequently use social networking websites, such as MySpace and FaceBook.
When I was in school it was all about email. You’ll have an alumni email account for life, I was told. There was an assumption that I would need an email account for life.
How true. Maybe it has something to do with my aversion to the social networking sites mentioned above, but I have five or so email addresses! To me, the myriad benefits of email outweigh its inconveniences, and there are a lot. I have copies of some emails going back a good ten years. I don’t believe that living in a digital age means sacrificing one’s own personal history to a third party, which is exactly what you do when you entrust someone like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to your very communications. What will happen when those kids want to read their old “letters,” fifty years from now?
The fact is, growing up I used to love books of letters. I remember fondly a particular book of correspondence between Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. I thought it was some of their best writing! Sure, we’re not all writers, but just as I meticulously save and backup every digital photograph I take, I hope to do the same with much of my online correspondence. Just the other day, I wanted to listen to some recordings I’d made a decade ago. Sure enough, I still have copies of them all. I’ve even kept a copy of pretty much every website I’ve ever made, dating back a decade as well!
My point is simply that there is a very critical thing missing from those social networks, and that is ownership of, and control over, the content you create. But just as surely as the Internet’s early years were marked by sharing, openness, optimism, and almost hippie-ish ideologies, once its population reaches a certain threshold it becomes commercialized, balkanized, spam-saturated, and the subject of “two tier Internet” schemes designed to let its carriers “double-dip” and take obnoxiously unfair advantage of their near-monopoly positions.
Or am I being a bit too skeptical?
Image via Christer.