November 16, 2010

Facebook Messages – some say it’s an “email killer,” others disagree; Pew Internet data shows us where email stands today among youth

In light of Facebook’s recent announcement  of the addition of “Facebook Messages” – a message aggregator that will bring together text, chat and email – to its service, we offer our data that describes the communication landscape of today’s teens. In our Youth and Mobile Phones report, we look at the complete picture of where and how teens communicate with friends, which provides some context for understanding the potential implications of Facebook’s new feature. 

In the report, we note that while email isn’t used very much as a daily communication tool with friends, it is used, albeit less frequently, by most teens, and used mostly to talk to institutions, adults and others less reachable by text messaging, as well as when teens need to send longer and more complicated messages to a group. The data suggest that while email isn’t used heavily by teens, it certainly hasn’t disappeared, either.

The graphic below shows daily use of a variety of communication technologies – and suggests that while text messaging as a daily activity for teens has grown astronomically over the past three years, other communicative technologies have remained relatively stable or have declined slightly, suggesting that the increase in texting has layered on top of the other modes of communication that teens employ.

Whether teens and adults will adopt Facebook’s Messages remains to be seen; but though email may be deemed “too slow” by some, it still has its own utility for teens in their communicative landscapes.

Activities over time