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Monday, 25 June, 2001, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Are you sick of e-mail?

The number of people surfing the internet in the UK is rising, but the popularity of e-mail is on the decline.

According to the Consumers' Association annual survey 36% of the entire population now goes online - compared to 27% a year earlier.

But email appears to be losing out to a more personal approach as the preferred means of keeping in touch, and the Consumer Association's experts predict the decline will continue.

Just 5% of surfers consider e-mail their preferred choice, while the number of Britons preferring face-to-face communication surged from 39% to 67%, the survey said.

Are you tired of e-mail? Or do you think it is a great way to stay in touch?

This Talking Point debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

I think the good thing about e-mail is that it enables you to keep in touch with people who you would normally lose contact with. Whizzing off a quick email at work to a friend is far better than calling them as invariably the boss walks over mid conversation, just as you're getting to the juicy gossip. I have a university friend and we swap emails every week, I haven't "spoken" to her for over two years but I would say we are still great mates - in fact she's coming to visit next month and everything is arranged by e-mail.

Another great feature of emails is arranging dates - no more getting tongue-tied on the phone thinking what to say! I think part of the decline in the use of e-mails is the massive increase in SMS text messaging but that will soon be a thing of the past as everyone develops arthritis from tapping on those tiny keys!
Simon, UK

Faster than mail and no problems with the 8 hour time differences

Rhys Jaggar, England
E-mail is great if people are busy - phone tapping is eliminated. It's great if you live overseas: faster than mail and no problems with the 8 hour time differences.

I'm not sure it's any good for having an argument: I lost a long-term relationship through misinterpreting an e-mail. And I certainly wouldn't propose marriage over the net. It's a communication medium: good for some things, less good for others. Liked more by some, liked less by others. Let's honour it for what it is.
Rhys Jaggar, England

As the use of the Internet grows the proportion of methods of communication will adapt, in the same way as the number of people who could read changed the proportion from reading the Bible to reading tabloid press. The value of the email to the reader is a function of the effort of the writer and one can put in as much effort in an e-mail as a letter, or not.

Email is a cheap, quick flexible communication tool and uniquely has the ability to be broadcast and forwarded (quickly, cheaply, etc). If you don't want unwanted e-mail, don't supply your email address. I think e-mail is more environmentally friendly than physical face-to-face, anyone seeing the line of cars pseudo-stationary on the M6 should question if the travelling is worth it. E-mail supplemented by Video Conferencing is better still.
Nigel, UK

E-mail is not in decline and their is no chance that it will be relegated to the backwaters of cyberspace. It's amazing how many different ways a set of statistics can be interpreted. The news that e-mail is not the preferred method of communication is hardly surprising. We would all prefer to discuss in a face-to-face situation if possible, but this is rarely the case. So e-mail, telephone, fax and similar mediums all have a to be used where appropriate. I will agree however that e-mail is over used for the most inappropriate circumstances, colleagues who spend time typing e-mails that only work across the office from one another are wasting time mostly a telephone conversation is much more appropriate and less divisive.
Philip Relph, England

Their immediacy scuppers moderation

Ian, Scotland
I remember Bill Gates telling the world that the telephone was dead. Old technology, but what exactly is an e-mail if it's not a telephone can and an impersonal one at that. E-mails are handy but their immediacy scuppers moderation. Letters allow for consideration of what's been said. But in all e-mails are an increasing step to the de-personalisation of the world and the undermining of social skills. Give me a letter or a phone call any day and no Mr Gates the e-mail is not the future but a glorified fax.
Ian, Scotland

Take it from me: frequent postal strikes in the city of Oxford have taught local companies the hard way about the importance of email as a more reliable medium of business communication.
Henry Case, UK

I am 14 and have used the net since I was about 9. I have made some of my best friends by e-mail and it will never die.
Lesley, Scotland

It is the best thing since the telephone and much cheaper

George Milton, USA/Italy
Email is great. It has greatly increased the volume of communication, if not its quality. Naturally letters take more time and so it is natural that more time is spent on the quality of the communication. This does not have to be the case and the frequency of communications is greatly enhanced. It is the best thing since the telephone and much cheaper.
George Milton, USA/Italy

I used to love email, but now it's become a mail box full of advertisements. I think I have three email addresses now and I may have to get more once the advertisers catch wind of my new one. It's ridiculous. One of my email accounts gets 10-15 spam mails a day. I'm scared to even check that mail now. And with more and more email addresses becoming useless to users due to spam mail, the number of available addresses shrinks.
Jordan Medeiros, USA

Phone calls are expensive and the person you may be calling might have been busy with something else and resents your intrusion whilst most people feel that they have to fill letters with news and so never get around to writing one and end up losing touch with old friends. But the best bit about e-mails is you can reach your target so much easier - especially when contacting people at large organisations such as the BBC.
Gill, UK

Quick. Easy. Simple. Fast. Okay, e-mail is not "as personal" as a letter because letters on screen are not written in the writer's hand, but their thoughts are as present. Sentimentality is irrelevant against functionality, especially when e-mail does no damage to anything. People are contacting each other more, and their messages reach their destination quicker. It's not a novelty, it's an electronic pen. Long live E-mail!
Russell Hope, UK

As yet another person who is abroad as part of their degree I agree nothing can beat email. Yes seeing someone face to face is great, but when it comes down to it, this is the best way I have of keeping in touch with family and friends not only back home but all over the world. Telephone calls and letters are great, but my email address is the one thing that doesn't change no matter where in the world I am.
Claire, Germany

I can't see what the fuss is about. Emails, along with telephones, letters, face to face and the runner with the cleft stick are means of communication. The importance is that they give an alternative, and preserve our freedom to choose the most appropriate method for a particular message.
John Gant, UK

You may construe that e-mail is "out of fashion" because the kids are all sending text on their new toys, but for those of us with computer-based desk jobs email is invaluable for both business and social use. It is quick, convenient, and doesn't rely on the recipient being there when you want to be in contact.

Leave the net to people who understand it

Jon Livesey, USA
I only wish I understood why it is that someone only has to publish a worthless "survey" like this, and the press immediately start discussing it as though it has some meaning. The good folk at Which should go back to testing washing machines, and leave the net to people who understand it.
Jon Livesey, USA

E-mail for work? Brilliant - couldn't do without it. Send and receive anywhere up to 30 messages per day. It's particularly useful for communicating with large groups of people simultaneously, or for overcoming differences between time zones.

E-mail for anything else? Yes, if I want to buy stuff, find out about stuff from a website, deal with somebody I don't know. Definitely not for friends and family, except as an absolute last resort. It's too impersonal, you can't get sidetracked, you can't hear the tone of the other persons voice or look into their face.
John, UK

Your information about email losing fans is WRONG. All businesses must NOW be using email to keep up with their competition, besides the fact that it is easier, faster and more efficient than snail mail!
Bill Sherwood, US

Having moved from the UK to the US last year (ironically by marrying someone who I exchanged messages with for 8 months), I find e-mail is an excellent and cheap way of keeping in touch with my family and friends. Having an 8 hour time difference between here and back home is difficult sometimes to phone and while international phone calls are still quite high, typing a message to someone doesn't constrict you to a fixed time, more writing it when you have the time.

I will be the first person to shout about that face-to-face communication is more important than other ways, and true with e-mail you don't get the spontaneity that you would with a conversation in person, but we have to realise that it is only since technology has changed in the last 20 years or so, that the world is finally uniting. Most of my friends back in the UK have friends all over the world and without this form of communication, there wouldn't be the progressing unity that there is between individuals from different cultures. It is a learning process for us all.
Gary Myer, USA

As yet another person who is abroad as part of their degree I agree nothing can beat email. Yes seeing someone face to face is great, but when it comes down to it, this is the best way I have of keeping in touch with family and friends not only back home but all over the world. Telephone calls and letters are great, but my email address is the one thing that doesn't change no matter where in the world I am.
Claire, Germany

I'm astonished to learn that e-mail is on the decline. I question the accuracy of such an observation. Face-to-face communication is hardly feasible when I wish to communicate with my friends in Australia, England, or even other parts of the United States!

I even prefer e-mail over the telephone when corresponding with people in my own city: I'm not going to interrupt their dinner or recreation as I might if I used the phone. And e-mail doesn't have to be the death of good writing. There's no reason at all for email to be less well composed than correspondence on paper.
Jon Rutherford, USA

As a business tool, e-mail is unbeatable!

Mark B, UK
As a business tool, e-mail is unbeatable! Why spend 10 minutes talking to a colleague when you can get an answer in seconds using e-mail? Most conversations take too long to get to the salient point. You also get a permanent record of what was said. Some may say that my argument is anti-social, but if I want a chat, I'll do it in the smoking area!
Mark B, UK

Right now, it is still too early to confine anything to a has-been technology. E-mail needs some time to find its real place in the variety of communication means available.
Eduardo Villanueva, Peru

I think e-mail is great, especially for keeping in touch with friends and family overseas. I am sick of spam e-mails which almost invariably offer me either the chance to get rich quick by sending someone $100 or the opportunity to look at a pornographic web site.
John B, UK

The reason why people are getting turned off by e-mail and prefer face-to-face contact/ telephone is simple. The last two options involve someone actually listening to what you are saying. With e-mail, someone might not read it for days and then not even reply so you never know when it has been read. At least with face-to-face, someone has to listen and you can get your point across.
Phill S, UK

If I get rubbish I just send it back!

Susanna Orchard, UK
I think e-mail's great. It's fast, it's immediate and I look forward to accessing my in-box during the day. If I get rubbish I just send it back!
Susanna Orchard, UK

If people are starting to see e-mail as just another option for communicating, rather than the be all and end all, then that is good. It has its limitations, but it is very useful too! Therefore it isn't going away any time soon. As for privacy, perhaps the only good to come out of the RIP bill is to highlight that unencrypted email never was private anyway. You can use strong, public key encryption to keep your e-mail communications private - a practice I would urge people to take up!
Anna Langley, UK

E-mail is a very impersonal mode of expression. I would rather speak to someone in person instead of through a computer screen.
Sarah Linwood, USA

The government introduced the RIP bill, which basically allows them to snoop our e-mails! This will happen, even if the government ever deny snooping. The only way to protect your e-mails is with very high-level encryption, this takes away the ease of use of e-mail which made it popular in the first place.
Josh, UK

Once the novelty of the telephone wore off, that invention simply became a normal part of people's lives - neither thrilling nor boring, just useful. The same will happen to e-mail.
Peter Smith, UK

The thought of not having an e-mail address is slightly scary because I have became so attached to it

Ross Fleming, Scotland
"Consumers' Association experts say that, after a brief reign, e-mail is poised for exile to a distant backwater of cyberspace." I think it's too early to predict it yet - just because a few % has changed doesn't mean that e-mail is going to become exiled. It is still the most popular, and don't forget the CHEAPEST method of sending messages to people. It can cost most people 0p because of unmetered ISPs or only a fraction of the cost of a stamp to send a huge e-mail with pictures, media and other forms of personal correspondence. I have actually grown more attached to email, and the thought of not having an e-mail address is slightly scary because I have became so attached to it - it is like my "real" address on the web.
Ross Fleming, Scotland

Having used e-mail since the mid 1980's, I have seen it grow from an originally text based medium to today's multimedia application. With friends and family scattered from New Zealand to California, it is by far the easiest and quickest way I can send them news and family pictures. Long may e-mail live and there is always things like PGP to make the spooks snooping more difficult
Ian Jones, UK

Depends what they mean by "staying in touch". I've been using email for over 15 years and couldn't work without it. Different forms of communication have different benefits. E-mailing someone isn't the same as sharing a pint with them in the pub, but it is a great way of arranging to be there in the first place.
Andrew Cooper, England

E-mail is the greatest thing to come along in centuries. What other communications medium allows almost instant contact to any place in the world? With in-laws located on three continents and on the high seas, e-mail makes it possible to contact everyone without regard to time, distance, or location. Okay, the junk mail isn't so nice, but that's why there is a delete key.
Jim Hubbell, USA

You cannot beat e-mail for keeping in touch with friends and family who are far away

Janet Gladstone, UK
I think the reason it's falling in popularity, are the revelations that it is no longer private, as multiple government agencies across the world vie for position in the race to monitor everything we do or say. As a means of free and private speech, it's been irreparably tarnished! ... A letter is better, and face-to-face takes no prisoners!
Keith Wassell, UK

As a survey it's absolute rubbish. I've been using e-mail at work for nearly 20 years and I'm very grateful for its recent general popularity. Its use from a standard TV (possible with digital?) will keep it growing anyway. It's no replacement for face-to-face, but even that's possible with a PC. It is a perfectly viable replacement for writing letters though!
Dave Martin, Holland

E-mail seemed to be cheapening correspondence, with electronic mail being thrown around like garbage. An e-mail takes no effort to write and is nowhere as personal as a written letter, or even better still, a face-to-face conversation. To see this trend is reassuring. E-mails and other electronic forms of communication cheapen communication between people. As a young member of society I see relationships around me which make or break on the wording of an e-mail or a text message. Nothing beats a good conversation.
Roy McMichael, U.K.

E-mails and other electronic forms of communication cheapen communication between people

Roy McMichael, U.K.
I'm currently on a study placement in the USA, e-mail has allowed me to keep in constant contact with friends family and loved ones. Although it doesn't compare to a telephone call, e-mail provides a quick and easy method of keeping in touch in the interim between more personal forms of communication. Although forwarded jokes and chain letters lose their appeal very quickly, e-mail, like text messaging allows friends to have long distance, cheap conversations saying things they perhaps wouldn't in person as it may be a bit too cheeky, etc.
Neal, Brit in USA

I can't see the decline myself and if anything it's got people communicating. I now talk on a daily basis to three friends who I might have had an odd telephone call from before e-mail. We all express ourselves much more via e-mail. I'm even getting my Mum & Dad into it and they can't set the video recorder!
Sue, UK

There is a place for e-mail, but people are naturally sociable and there will never be a substitute for meeting someone face-to-face.
P Smith, UK

Face-to-face meetings are always preferable if they are possible, but you cannot beat e-mail for keeping in touch with friends and family who are far away. I am a much more regular correspondent now that I have e-mail. And it is far quicker than snail-mail!
Janet Gladstone, UK

OK - maybe the novelty's worn off, but e-mail is another way to communicate like face-to-face, telephone, mobile, fax, etc. Judging by the number of e-mails I get on a daily basis at work and home it's far from being in decline. I think its use has gone down a bit, but this is just symptomatic of peoples' use of it maturing and getting more judicious. I find it of immense use for contacting friends and relatives abroad and for passing on more complex messages (and attachments) to business colleagues. Less time is wasted since you're not forever trying to ring an unresponsive number - meanwhile you leave your clear message for them to pick up. Still brilliant!
John Moonie, Scotland

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