Another reason spam is on the way out

Mashable has a widely re-circulated post saying that spam is on the way out. Apparently there’s 82.22% less than there was a year ago because of various enforcement measure (cops, ISPs etc). There’s also the alarming other side to the story: That malware is a growing menace.

I’d suggest that this landmark provides a useful context for helping to understand social media more widely – after all, understanding what it’s for is the first step in knowing how to use it.

At the start of 2004, Bill Gates said that spam would be trounced within two years. How we laughed (in 2006 anyway). But social media is, I would suggest, simply a response to the various ways that e-mail is broken.

OK – spam is a problem – but less of one if you have a good filter (like GMail has). But we’re still looking for ways of knowing which email we have to action, which stuff we’d like to read. We want a degree of provenance – who sent me this message? How do I know them? Do I want to respond to them? How to I manage my time and prioritise? How do I retain my different personalities (work/play/family etc) without the various reply-to-all type risks that rapid comms brings.

Then there’s the problem of the people who mistake sending an email for communication.

Email solved huge problems for us, but created new ones. In making it massively easier and cheaper to communicate with people, it left us all with information overload. We responded by changing the way we work – becoming more impulsive and multi-tasking. Social media has struggled to meet this emerging demand with a little bit of technology and a lot of configuration.

I mention all of this concious that every reader has probably thought this through themselves already. None of this is controversial. Yet I find that so little of the narrative that seeks to explain what social media is for acknowleges this simple problem that each new innovation (Google+ being the latest).

Social media is killing spam – and other communications malfunctions – by downgrading our inboxes for us. The impact goes way beyond the productivity gains that a good spam-filter brings.

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