Electronic communication has become almost an essential part of people's lives. The Internet has been the catalyst for electronic communication, and rarely in human history has anything risen to such prominence in such a short period of time. There are now many ways to communicate electronically, with, no doubt, more variety to come in the near future.
E-mail has had its critics, notably for the brevity of messages and for the rapidity of reply, which often negates clear thought. But all new things will have critics. Writing to someone by conventional mail and waiting for a response takes days or weeks. Waiting sometimes just a few minutes for a response by e-mail seemed quite magical in the early days of the Internet. Now this is taken for granted. The problem of spam has never been dealt with satisfactorily, but being able to e-mail photographs on the day they were taken to a loved one on the other side of the world makes up for some of the negatives.
Newsgroups, Chatrooms, Video Conferencing
Newsgroups and chat rooms began as early types of social media. Newsgroups rely on people's posting messages to a relevant group, and members of that group can then comment instantaneously. In recent years, newsgroups have, to a large extent, been replaced by slick social-networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Chat rooms still have a dubious reputation on the net, because though they can be great places for friends spread around the globe to meet up, unwelcome visitors will often use them inappropriately. Standalone video conferencing, used for business, has also now been matched by instant-messaging programs.
Social Media and Instant Messaging
Social media may be seen by many as even more important than e-mail now. Facebook and MySpace have an e-mail facility and instant messaging, and Twitter has a direct-message and instant-reply facility. Instant messaging, which is also available from the likes of Yahoo! and MSN, is becoming increasingly more advanced. Whereas in the early days of Yahoo! Messenger you could save money on a phone call to someone overseas, now you can not only talk but look at a live video image of that person at the same time.