Spam is Dead! Long Live Spam!

Back in Part 1, I talked about the decline of personal email for communications. Our failure isn’t limited to email though. Here’s a quick story. I spent the better part of this past Father’s Day weekend working on my father-in-law’s computer and then again with my wife’s uncle’s computer. This started a lot of conversations on their purpose.

When my in-laws’ computers were first purchased, email was a much larger part of the personal communication experience. It was THE way to stay in touch, but now both computers are used for simple functional tasks like personal email, and banking with a new personal communication tool in the mix, social networks.

They both like their computers still, but had the same opinion when I asked about their personal email. They could take it or leave it if they got new computers. There was no need to migrate their old personal email as much of it was just spam. Balance this against the recent Quartz report about the decline of spam and this is where things get interesting.

Spam’s nature remains the same, but it has changed. While there are still blatantly obvious spam emails that are now better filtered, thanks to Google and Microsoft, we now opt into our spam. Most of my personal email is from consumer based sites that I shop at frequently. Spam is no longer something we avoid. We embrace it as part of our consumer productivity. As a result, we’ve moved personal communication into social networks for one to many (let’s leave text messaging out for now since it isn’t strictly computer based).

Through our journey of personal communication, we’ve killed physical letters, evolved into email and then killed that too again through social networks. Spam has followed us all the way through at each stage. Social networks are the ultimate method to embrace spam and kill personal communication.

“The beauty of social networks is you can get users to send it themselves”
– from Kevin Haley, director of Symantec’s security response

As an exercise to prove spam exists and that true personal communication is dead on social networks, let’s run through the top interactions through my personal email, Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s my current top personal emails outside of the pre-filtered spam.

– Banana Republic sales
– Various emails from Amazon
– Emails from XBox, DC comics, Humble Bundle and various custom T-Shirt sites
– Billing and payment confirmations

As you can see, I have bought all in to being a consumer in my personal email. There is not a one to one communication to be found.

Next, let’s take a look at Facebook.

– Political post
– Photos of kids I don’t know
– Funny video
– Religious post
– Consumer re-post
– Photos of kids I don’t know

Granted, I control my Likes on Facebook pretty well, so I don’t get too much spam. Mostly, I get a filtered down version of a complex issue distilled into black and white. While I do enjoy trying to keep up with my old friends and their families, I’m not truly getting a personal interaction. I see the photos or posts and comment or move on.

Lastly, here’s Twitter.

– Witty comment from a stranger
– Witty comment from a known company
– No clue, inside joke from a stranger
– Not witty comment from a stranger
– Local news article from newspaper
– Too many other things to see in the 10 minutes since I checked last

Twitter seems to be the best for one to one personal communication, but the relationship is missing. You can’t build a meaningful conversation out of a Tweet.

Is spam to blame for the decline of personal communication. Well…not really. I think we just have too many choices and have built ourselves into consumable information and consumerism though to build real relationships.

Social networks aren’t adding to real one to one or even one to many personal communication. While they have their uses, we still aren’t keeping in touch as we once had. We’re at a point where personal email has become functional and consumer based. Social networks are also consumer based and lacking either the personal interaction or relationships we need to truly build connections with each other. While great monumental shifts in culture take place online, the unique individual is what I see missing. How can you connect with one person ever again?

Ladies and gentleman, we’ve come full circle. I’d like to re-introduce you to the indispensable tool of businesses everywhere – the telephone.