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Want To Feel Old(er)?

April 12, 2016

I now understand why there are classes at technical schools for how to use email.

“I’m more of an adult now that I send email,” says Sumanth Neerumalla, a junior at the University of Maryland. He says becoming a person who sends emails felt like a bigger rite of passage than registering to vote.

You might think a generation as tech-savvy as this one, which can hardly remember a time before smartphones, Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram, would have embraced email in its infancy.

But progress has inverted the order in which Generation Z encounters many technologies, relative to their older peers. Many used tablets before laptops, streaming before downloads and chat before email. For them, email is as about as much fun as applying to college or creating a résumé.

“The way I first perceived email was, it was something my parents did for work,” says Zach Kahn, a 21-year-old senior at George Washington University.

I heard variants of this sentiment from 15 young adults, ages 16 to 21: Email is for communicating with old people, the digital equivalent of putting on a shirt and tie.

“I would never even think of emailing my friends, they would just react super weird,” says Tanya E. Van Gastel, a 21-year-old senior at University of Antwerp, in Belgium. “They would be like ‘Why don’t you text me?’ ”

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 12, 2016 4:28 PM

    I started using computers in 1974 (electronic typography). But I didn’t tell people I was a typesetter; I’d tell them I “worked with computers” and watch their eyes bug out. “What do you do with computers?” “Sorry, that’s classified.” Actually we were composing the New York Yellow Pages. Great times.

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