Can social media help us enjoy e-mail again?

February 9, 2010

The race is on to blend e-mail and social media. As expected, Google has entered the fray, and reportedly Facebook isn’t far behind.

Because of the emphasis that social media, especially Facebook, places on identity, combining it with e-mail makes a lot sense. Could it even strike a major blow against spam, one of the biggest reasons we love to hate our inboxes?

Imagine a social network that served as a gatekeeper for your e-mail, where messages from people you know arrived immediately while messages from others were filtered. Messages from unknown addresses would be handled with an automated reply message to confirm that they’re from a real person rather than a robot.

There are already services out there that do this kind of gatekeeping, but they haven’t been widely adopted. I think it’s because they often seem annoying because everyone has to opt-in for their messages to make it to their intended recipients. With social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, though, millions of people have already taken the proactive step to connect. Why not take advantage of what is essentially a filtering system and use it to avoid unwanted e-mail?

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