Why Social Networks will never replace email

Have you ever had this conversation with someone in their teens? Siblings, relative, friends, perhaps?

Me: “What’s your email address?”

Kid trapped in social network: “An e…. wait, what?”

Me: “Email address! Electronic mail!”

Kid trapped in social network: “Mail can be electronic? Cool. so… what is mail anyway? Is that that thing called ‘snail mail’ that I hear about? …….DO I HAVE ONE?”

Me: “No! I don’t know, DO YOU have an email address? You know, so and so @ whatever . com?”

Kid trapped in social network: “I don’t know who so and so is. Is he at whatever.com? Is that a physical building?”

Me: “……….”

Kid trapped in social network: “………!?”

Me: “Nevermind.”

Kid trapped in social network: “Hey! Do you have Facebook? Or Myspace? What’s your Twitter handle?”


I’m sure we’ve all experienced this. Either that, or I’m the lucky one who finds people who have no idea what an email address is. This is more common than you may think- youngish (well, age is relative I guess, seeing as I’m in my mid 20’s) kids that don’t have an email address and have no clue what purpose it could possibly serve (because duh, everyone loves having public communications on a social network that essentially owns all your data) are easier to find- because they can do everything through FB private messages and wall posts, Myspace Email, and Twitter DMs.

Guess what!

I love signing into my personal email address, where everything is JUST how I want it, organized until it’s apparent I’m OCD- with no clutter, status messages or anything irrelevant to what I’m doing. This is why social networks will never…. repeat after me please… NEVER, replace traditional email, for those of us who are actually using the internet for useful things and not to spy on who went where and who broke up with who.

Security Reasons

Social networks are NOT secure. And I’m not saying that Gmail, Yahoo! and other webmail accounts are completely secure, but I’m saying that they are probably more secure than a place where you can accidentally post something to someone’s wall, rather than in a private message.

Also, believe it or not (shocking I know) businesses will not be sending private messages on Facebook to get things done. Facebook messages and events are ideal for sending out charity fundraiser information, office party time and location, or after work activities, but for the LOVE OF GOD do not send anything related that could break a confidentiality agreement or NDA. Just don’t. And if you have to ask me why, then you’re way worse than I thought.

Plus, if you use certain mail services, you can track when your mail has been received and read.

File Sharing

You can’t share files through social network messages- and even traditional email can’t handle certain sizes that you may need to send for feedback, editing or collaboration. While there are apps like BaseCamp and Central Desktop that can handle this for you, don’t let that be the reason you deny yourself a wonderful email address. There’s plenty of external services you can use through email to send large files- and organize.

Email will allow you to sort, filter, label and categorize your files so you’ll never lose what you need. No functionality like this has been replicated in a social network messaging space- and I hope they don’t try. It’s hard enough to concentrate at work when you’re getting notifications from social networks in your email address- let’s not make it so that we have to cross through the evil social network barrier to even see our important attachments.

End of the world right there.


Some things really should be shared via email. I’m actually pretty disgusted at the amount of stuff shared via Facebook wall posts, Myspace messages and Twitter replies. Also, Facebook status messages are just out of control. 1) I don’t really need to know how many times in the day you went to the bathroom, what you ate for dinner, or what TV show you’re watching. 2) I’m sure nobody else really needs to see your personal invites for friends to go out, on their walls. Haven’t you heard of a telephone? Or even a text message! Maybe… AN EMAIL!

TMI. Get it under control. Thank god for privacy options that will allow you to cut people out of your feed stream so you don’t see updates every 5 minutes.

Also, putting boyfriend and girlfriend stuff up can be cute- I don’t necessarily frown upon that. But full on 9 sentence wall posts or status updates outlining your date night from start to finish are entirely unnecessary- including how much fun you had. Maybe I’m old school, but I enjoy getting to work and seeing an email (in my personal account) or text message from my significant other (and yes, even 4 years later) about what fun we had the night before. Don’t put this out for everyone to see. Make it special! Better yet, try writing a handwritten note. This completely trumps email.

Note: this becomes a worse offense if you live with your significant other.

Separation of work and play

This is pretty much the last reason. I don’t want to work where I play. While I may need to utilize Facebook, Twitter and other social networks while working on campaigns, it doesn’t mean I’m playing on there or even checking my personal stuff. Productivity wise, having a separate space for work and personal emails… surrounded by nothing but sidebars with labels and folders, is best for your productivity.

Also, if you really want to have some things for stress relief inside your email, try using an RSS feed or Google Reader. This way, you’ll have content waiting for you to consume it with your hungry eyes, but it won’t be directly in your face.


Keep an email address. Some things are better off being communicated through email and not wall posts and private messages. Have your own separate space to be as OCD as you please- free from drama and messages that could side track you.

A side note? If you’re only using email for work purposes and conduct ALL your personal business on a social network (I hope there aren’t many of you out there who do this) make sure that when you have a file to send, an email to reply to, or a task assigned through email, that you aren’t uploading pictures or replying to people on a social network where everyone can see you. Saying “I’ll get to it in a minute, I’m busy with work!” while you’re posting pictures from last night just won’t cut it.

That’s another reason why you shouldn’t work where you play.

  • http://joshuatitsworth.com joshuatitsworth

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s that same crowd that is saying social media marketing will replace SEO and if you have a Facebook Fanpage you don’t need a website that is saying Social media messaging will replace email. What’s really ironic, is that most social networks require an email address to begin the service.

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  • http://www.esvienne.com Selena Narayanasamy

    I know! Social media marketing runs differently than SEO- they may intersect in certain areas but they aren’t targeting the same things.nnI also think it’s stupid that people think having a fan page can replace a website- you’re right, it can’t. You need a hardcore definite presence that will be there for consumers and clients as a steadfast area of communication and information. Fan pages are just a supplement but not a replacement!nnWe’re going to be in serious trouble if one day we sign into Facebook and it says, “Please sign in with your OpenID, Twitter ID or Disqus ID”… hell will definitely freeze over then.

  • http://searchmarketingwisdom.com alanbleiweiss

    Selena, nnI loved reading this. While you may still “only” be in your mid-20s, and for a 51 year old (me) to read how you refer to yourself as “old-school” brings a smile to my face, you bring up important issues, things we all face as the world inexorably marches further and further into a world of social media. nnAlready, social media is, at times, too all-encompassing, and people need to understand how important it is to compartmentalize things online. nnGood write-up!