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The year’s 1997, in the UK, and the internet is slowing taking form. Upon gaining access to the college computer, I went straight to Hotmail and set up my own email address. It would still be a few years before widespread adoption in homes by the UK public…made possible by AOL; America on-line discs for everyone! After connecting your modem to the phone line, and hearing those timeless dial-up noises until…you were on-line in your own home! Nevertheless, it was the start of a dramatic shift in the way communication happened; communication between one human being to another, between businesses and people, between people in the same room.
However the Internet, as powerful and revolutionary as it was, came with some strings attached. For the first time in human existence we are faced with the challenge of creating an online persona, a virtual representation of ourselves. We have more tools to refine our online image than ever; more ways to refine what we show people, what we choose not to show them, and the platform we use. If you are still not convinced we should think about our online image, I’d ask you to reflect on the times you casually browse an old “friends” Facebook page, trying as hard as you can to not pass judgment, or ascertain the quality of their life, by the content in front of you.
So what does this have to do with email address choice? Does it matter if someone tells you they are Johnsmith@msn.com vs. email@example.com vs. firstname.lastname@example.org vs. email@example.com? Lycos really?
I remember the first time someone gave me their @mac.com email address, it was the virtual equivalent of “Excuse me do you have the time?” “Sure let me just check my Rolex.” It asks the question, if people are assigning status to an email address, looking for some sort of semi-tangible value, when I’m replying to a quotation request, a project update or even a job advert, should I use gmail? It seems to be universally accepted as the go-to search engine & email provider. Perhaps it shows I’m forward thinking and I keep up with technology? This actually makes a lot more sense when taken in the context of business; if someone sent me a business proposal with @hotmail.com I would probably think twice.
And then… there are the @googlemail.com people. Where did they come from? Are they deliberately articulating a difference? Perhaps they feel it sets them apart from the crowd?
I feel this is all part of the underlying theme of this article: the need to create an E-Persona. The alternative is rebellion and simply not caring, perhaps keeping the same email address for the next ten years. I’ve actually heard people relate it to the steadiness and reliability of the person behind the old school yahoo account; I find this highly ironic given the unreliability and steadiness of the very service they so fondly embrace.
There are always exceptions to the rule; I know Directors that still use Hotmail to communicate as they believe it shows a non-corporate response! Unfortunately that simply isn’t the case anymore, as our online-personas are so interlinked they’re one and the same; Facebook, linkedIn, G+, Twitter and even your Company Profile picture!
In time, will we look back at gmail, and maybe even Google itself, in the same way we do AOL? Bing seems to have constantly stuggled for traction since its renaming; bad marketing or a bad service? Meanwhile Yahoo have certainly taken up the void filled by AOL in terms of everyday content and services; this apparent resurrection of Yahoo is best left for another post!
It is certainly interesting to see the way we interact with technology as Internet users; often sharing the same opinions yet making very different choices. This is the real freedom provided by the modern-day Internet, and exactly why we love our work!
Please leave your comments below, and look out for Part 2 where we look at the Social Media aspect!
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