MATT RICHTEL in the NYTimes Bits Blog points out that the amount of time spent using web based email services is on the decline for everyone but the 55 and older crowd. The data collected by comScore Media Metrix should, in my opinion, come as little surprise to anyone with a pulse. The proliferation of social media sites as a means of communicating has drastically reduced the amount of general chatter that once occupied our in boxes. Many people have chosen to fulfill their need to reach out and touch their "friends" via Facebook status updates and wall posts. I believe that this form of communication is much more of a fishing expedition; if I have 200 friends on Facebook and I post that I'm feeling happy today, or sad, I'm more likely to engage someone in a conversation. Instant messaging, texts, twitter or Facebook posts make for instant gratification, and the generations that are growing up today are less likely to want to engage in lengthy email exchanges. The move to mobile has also had a significant impact on our email habits, and while the numbers are interesting to look at there's little to be surprised by here... unless you are a web based email service who's not had social on your radar, then you're probably too late anyway.
As for the big split between the under 55's and the over 55's, these are mostly the folks who didn't have PC's in their everyday lives until they were pushing 30 and probably didn't have to embrace them until even later in life. It's not that surprising.