Email and messaging ups online socialising

Email and messaging are an integral part of social life and enhance the quality of users' personal relationships, according to global research released on Friday by Yahoo.

According to Yahoo's Mail Netiquette Survey, which polled 13,000 people from Australia, New Zealand and other countries, 55 per cent of users said email had "markedly" improved their social lives. Also, the frequency of social contact increased for 60 per cent of respondents. Three out of four people said they were closer to their family and friends since they started using email.

Instant messaging was the preferred messaging option to email for socialising and flirting, the survey found. Of respondents, 36 per cent were very likely to use instant messaging for dating, and 38 per cent for gossiping.

However, important social "universals" like proposing marriage, inviting wedding guests or breaking up with a partner were unlikely to be done through email or instant messaging, the survey said.

The Mars-Venus paradigm was also evident in emailing and messaging habits between the sexes, according to the survey.

Uptake for instant messaging was highest among women under 30. Ian Webster, a senior analyst at www.consult, attributed the finding to what he said were gendered rationales behind internet use. Younger women used the internet as a communication and conversation tool, while men valued it more as an information and content-based experience, he said.

Besides professionals, very few people explored advanced email functions like blind carbon copying (bcc). This was because managing email was a major work issue for professionals, as opposed to regular users. Regular users employed email in its "simplest form" -- for one-to-one communication.

Webster suggested "bcc" was also used by people not in the habit of doing one-on-one communication, and those needing to be more cautious if they had made mistakes in the past when sending an email to mass recipients.

Email use decreased the time spent on the telephone for one-third of the group polled. According to Webster, Australian users were spending more time online than ever before (eight to 12 hours per month). "Phone dislocation" also depended on the frequency of a user's communication with an individual, he said.

And although laptops and wireless devices were proliferating, 69 per cent of respondents preferred to use desktops to check email. Four per cent used a wireless device such as a mobile phone or palm organiser. The discrepancy was caused by the perception that laptops and wireless technology were expensive and unreliable.

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