Major competition for personal messaging was the culprit. As of 2018, Facebook became one of the most popular social networks worldwide with more than two billion active users. More than half (58 per cent) were between the ages of 18 and 34. After feeling left out of the communications loop for some time for not embracing Facebook, I was greatly relieved to discover that only four per cent of the users were in my age group (65 plus). It is a facetious, frivolous medium where no one ever seems to say anything remotely important or interesting. It appears to be a self-promotional brag sheet where users share personal photos, mundane everyday happenings, questionable accomplishments, or some news items deemed too important for their friends to miss. Luckily the delete button is close by.
Another social network communications device now highly popular with the younger generation is Instagram. It has more than a billion monthly users and is a leading social network for persons wanting to share photos and videos. Sixty-two per cent of users are between the ages of 18 and 34.
Twitter has also become one of the leading social networks, with more than 300 million monthly users. Limited to 280 characters in order to enforce brevity, it has become a popular medium for thoughtful messages, composed and intended for all connected to this device. Mainly used by adults between 18 and 49, it has also become an essential device for small and medium businesses to provide customer service.
Skype, the “picture telephone”, is a wonderful invention, particularly for informal chats among family and friends who live at a distance. Miraculously, they can see each other while talking. Like TV, I had heard about this possibility during my youth many decades ago, but considered it to be pure science fiction. I firmly believed that far-fetched fantasy it would never happen. Even after TV became a reality, I ridiculed this ridiculous idea of a “picture telephone” and never believed that it would see the light of day. However, I do remember imagining a black, cube-like wall telephone with its bulky receiver, displaying a four-by-six-inch motion picture image of the person to whom I was speaking. Many years later it did become a reality, but the real version did not become part of a telephone hanging on a wall.
Instagram, Skype, and Facebook are all very popular with teenagers and young adults, but not so much with older people. New inventions and invasive over-use by businesses have ensured that personal e-mail usage has lost popularity and has now suffered a surprising downturn with all segments of society. In business organizations, however, it remains a fabulously popular medium on a global scale, as does Twitter. My inbox is flooded daily with e-mails from organizations and businesses that have managed to inundate it with unsolicited messages. Instantly deleting them doesn’t stop the flood.
I still search longingly for an e-mail from a friend or acquaintance. Alas, like drumbeats, smoke signals, and letter-writing, personal e-mails have had their day. I shall just have to learn to Tweet, Text, Skype, or eat crow, and flood my friends’ inboxes with Facebook photos of me painting my cellar stairs, pulling weeds out of my radish patch, or brushing my teeth with a new-fangled Waterpik.
After all, one must stay abreast of the communications revolution, or lose touch with the outside world. But in quiet moments, I still lament the loss of personal e-mails and so find myself frequently singing a slightly altered version of the opening line of the lovely the Neil Diamond/Barbara Streisand song, “You don’t send me e-mails anymore”.