“You know what’s weird? Day by day nothing seems to change. But pretty soon…Everything’s different.”

~Bill Watterson

Email is frustrating these days.

It really drives me nuts. I’m a zero inbox type of guy. Having a messy inbox probably doesn’t bother most people.

But I got to thinking recently, isn’t it high time we have another more efficient way to communicate?

In fact, all social media is getting a little overwhelming these days.

We are now communicating with each other via text, office messenger, Wechat, Google Chat, Facebook Chat, Instagram Chat, Twitter Direct Message, imessage, and every other form of technical interaction one could possibly drum up. We can attach photos, documents, videos, and everything else to these texts now.

If we’re doing all this talking via text, do we really still need to do it in email? People text from their computers now. That’s a thing.

To be quite honest, it’s all a lot of noise at this point. Why not bring back the two soup cans and a string? That was so simple and clean.

What direction are email and social media going?

Could the 3D space of Virtual Reality redefine email and social media?Perhaps the next big step forward for them is already here and we don’t know it yet. We humans are not the best at seeing the forest for the trees. According to Chris Dixon often times the next big breakthroughs in technology start out looking like toys. He writes in his blog “The Next Big Thing Will Start Out Looking Like A Toy”:

The reason big new things sneak by incumbents is that the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy.” This is one of the main insights of Clay Christensen’s “disruptive technology” theory. This theory starts with the observation that technologies tend to get better at a faster rate than users’ needs increase. From this simple insight follows all kinds of interesting conclusions about how markets and products change over time.

Disruptive technologies are dismissed as toys because when they are first launched they “undershoot” user needs. The first telephone could only carry voices a mile or two. The leading telco of the time, Western Union, passed on acquiring the phone because they didn’t see how it could possibly be useful to businesses and railroads — their primary customers. What they failed to anticipate was how rapidly telephone technology and infrastructure would improve (technology adoption is usually non-linear due to so-called complementary network effects). The same was true of how mainframe companies viewed the PC (microcomputer), and how modern telecom companies viewed Skype.

Perhaps we will have visual headsets or glasses that allow us to experience email and social media in not just a new way, but in a way we can’t quite see yet. Dixon makes the overall point also that new technologies don’t have to be disruptive to be valuable. Perhaps it’s a fair conclusion to say that the next big thing in email and social media is here already. We just haven’t connected the dots yet. But can we even see the dots?

As far as email goes, most companies have cloud spaces where they share legal documents and important information. Do we really need to send them around in email anymore?

For chains of email with friends, that stuff can all be done by text now. It’s like everyone still emails because it was the cool thing pre-texting. But we’ve all forgotten the fact that at this point we don’t really need it. Evolution seems to happen when we’re looking the other way. Then we suddenly turn around and things are different.

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.
And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

~Steve Jobs

What about just inner office communication? Do we need email for that? It turns out there’s now enhanced forms of email. There’s these fancy communication programs Slack, Twist, Google Hangouts, Discord, Flock, and a host of others.

It’s not just this, but email (and social media) is actually a source of anxiety. I actually think that it could be a top source of anxiety in our current time that is hiding in plain sight.

Columnist Jacquelyn Smith wrote in her column for Business Insider “Here’s Why Email Gives Us So Much Anxiety” :

The reason it can feel overwhelming to find lots of emails in your work inbox,” he tells Business Insider, “is that each message represents another demand on your time and another decision you have to make. Even deciphering a generic announcement about the office coffee maker requires effort, which leaves less energy for work that matters.

It’s kind of like the elephant in the room. It’s one of those things where someone needs to say: “hey everyone, we don’t really need email anymore…there’s better ways to do this stuff.”

But…somewhat oddly, nobody does.

With the changing times in email and social media, email marketers will have to find a new way to advertise.

Most of the unsolicited emails I currently get, are ones from someone trying to advertise their website, blog, or some other product that 99% of the time I’m not all that interested in. The marketing emails have gone the way of advertisements before youtube videos. I have to believe a change is coming.

I am aware email is useful because certain things become official via an email transaction. There’s a legality aspect to it. But this is a small piece of what email does and I’m sure it could be incorporated into the next phase of the email and social media evolution.

Perhaps we need the postal service to get involved in our modern day email. What would that do? Would it lead to the government being more involved? Maybe? Or maybe not? Our postal service certainly needs a reboot. They’re hurting these days.

I found these photos of futuristic mail delivery vehicles in a column by Jeff Perez on motor1.com and I had to share.

Source: https://www.motor1.com/news/101348/next-generation-us-postal-service-mail-trucks/
Source: https://www.motor1.com/news/101348/next-generation-us-postal-service-mail-trucks/
Source: https://www.motor1.com/news/101348/next-generation-us-postal-service-mail-trucks/

Pretty awesome.

So what can we do to make our communication channels more effective?

Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai founder of EchoMail, a tech entrepreneur, and teacher of cross-discipline engineering courses at M.I.T. told Fast company:

The first U.S. Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin, was a superlative innovator. Like Henry Ford, he laid down a production system with the USPS for the receipt, sorting, routing and transport of mail while setting quality standards of training and delivery.

That was not a mere operational process of tweaking or refining an extant [business] to generate more revenue or reduce costs–but an inventive process.

Franklin created something new, a system that evolved to become the modern postal system. This evolution in media and communications cannot continue without ongoing, bold innovation.

The bottom line is we need to keep thinking forward when it comes to email and social media. We need better and more effective ways of communicating. The way it’s set up currently is not built for the future. Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Medium, YouTube, Snapchat, and all other forms of social media must find a way to combine to form a better, more consolidated way to do things. To use the age old adage, there’s too many cooks in the kitchen.

We need a new system. Not just for email but for all forms of digital communication as a whole. Something all encompassing. One with no rumors of shadow-banning or politically motivated to one side. What could this new system be?

In 20 years we could be looking at email and all current forms of social media like we do a pager, beeper, or a fax machine.

What’s next?

See you soon.

By Geoff Pilkington

You can connect with me at: www.geoffreypilkington.com